Hest Bank canal walk – heading south

Following on from my tour of the Winter Gardens theatre in October and lunch in a nearby cafe I drove the couple of miles north to Hest Bank for another walk along the Lancaster Canal, this time heading south. Unfortunately the weather gods had decided they no longer wanted to play ball – although it had been beautifully sunny with blue sky while I was in the theatre it was now cloudy and dull, not the sort of weather to show the canal at its best and I did consider coming back home, but with the afternoon stretching before me I decided to do the walk anyway.
Parking on the foreshore at Hest Bank, directly in front of me across the grass was a rather cute looking metal shelduck sculpture with an attractive information board at its base. Created by Ulverston-based blacksmith Chris Bramall on behalf of the Morecambe Bay Partnership it’s one of seven unique bird sculptures situated in different locations around the bay, with each one being associated with that particular location.
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Across the nearby level crossing and the main coast road Station Road took me up to Bridge 118 on the canal where I walked north for a hundred yards or so to check out the weird canalside people and their pets which I’d seen on my walk along there a month previously. With a large banner now fastened to the hedge they were definitely ready for Halloween and even their weird pets were dressed for the occasion.
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Retracing my steps I went back to the bridge and headed south with my goal being the Milestone Bridge which carries the relatively new (opened in 2016) dual carriageway over the canal, linking Junction 34 of the M6 with Heysham and its port.
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As far as canal walks go there was nothing remarkable about this one though maybe if the earlier sunshine and blue sky had still been around the surroundings would have looked a lot nicer. Reaching my goal of the Milestone Bridge and with no desire to go any farther on such a dull afternoon I turned and headed the almost two miles back to Bridge 118. Having seen no-one at all during the first part of the walk, at one point it was nice to see an approaching narrowboat and as it passed me the guy at the back of it shouted a cheery greeting. Having messed about on boats myself in previous years I’ve always thought boat people are a friendly lot.
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Almost back to civilisation I saw just three more people, a couple walking a small dog and a guy sitting on a bench, then no-one else until I got back onto Station Road. Back at the level crossing I found the barriers were down so I crossed the line via the overhead bridge where I took my final shot of the day looking north along the shore to the hills across the bay.
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With hindsight, if I’d known that the afternoon would turn out to be so cloudy I would have booked a later theatre tour and done the walk first while it was sunny but as the saying goes, hindsight’s a wonderful thing. Would I do that walk again? It would be nice to see that section of the canal in better weather so I might be tempted sometime next year.

Sunshine after the rain

A couple of weekends ago a brief break in the interminably wet local weather produced a lovely sunny Sunday so I took advantage of it and went for an afternoon dog walk along a section of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal just a six mile drive from home. Behind a pub on the main road into Radcliffe steps took me down onto the canal path where I turned right and headed in the direction of Bury.
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Away from civilisation ducks, swans, geese and the occasional moorhen inhabited the canal and its banks while open fields were dotted with cows, sheep and the odd pony or two. Apart from the brief sound of an occasional passing tram on the nearby line between Manchester and Bury it was very peaceful and the afternoon was even warm enough for me to dispense with my lightweight tracksuit top.
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Eventually an offshoot from the path took me up onto a lane running above and parallel to the River Irwell and over on my left was the high bank of Elton Reservoir. I would soon be approaching an industrial area on the outskirts of Bury and having cycled along there several years ago I knew there wasn’t much canal left – it had been filled in many years previously – so I followed the lane across the bridge over the canal and up to the reservoir.

The River Irwell – the canal is on the left just off the photo

The reservoir is the home of Elton Sailing Club and there were several boats out on the water so I snapped a couple of photos then set off on a clockwise circuit of the lake. In the far distance beyond the reservoir and high up on the hills above Bleakholt animal sanctuary was Scout Moor windfarm; occupying an area of almost two miles it’s the second largest onshore windfarm in England and the twenty six 60-metre turbines can be seen from south Manchester, around 20 miles away.
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Away from the open reservoir bank the path meandered through trees for quite a distance and after all the rain we had since since before Hallowe’en it was very muddy in places. Fortunately I managed to pick my way round the worst bits though I was glad when I finally got back onto more open land.
When I got to the gates of the sailing club the path became private so I had to continue my walk along the lane behind the clubhouse. Past a farmhouse and its various outbuildings I soon got back to the point where I started my circuit of the reservoir so I made my way back over the canal bridge and down to the towpath. The sun was getting low in the sky and most of the canal was in shade by then so there were no more photo stops on my way back to the van.
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Since that day two weeks ago this area has been hit by yet more endless rain and dog walks have been kept to short circuits of my local avenues so I’m glad I took advantage of that one sunny day. It had been a very enjoyable walk and one I will no doubt repeat in much better weather.

Same walk, different weather

Following my visits to Gresgarth Hall garden in August and October, on both occasions I made the short drive along the road to Bull Beck picnic site where I parked up and went for a walk along a section of the River Lune, an area I first visited two years ago. There were two big differences in each of these two walks though. In August it had been a very hot day, I knew that dogs weren’t allowed in the garden at Gresgarth Hall and as I couldn’t have safely left them in the van they had to stay at home, however October was much cooler and being able to park in shade meant that this time they were included in my day out.
The weather was the second big difference. An almost cloudless blue sky and wall-to-wall sunshine in August but in October, in spite of it being beautifully sunny while I was looking round Gresgarth Hall garden, by the time I’d had a picnic in the van the day had turned cloudy and really dull. I almost decided against doing the walk but it was the dogs’ day out as much as mine so off we went, hoping that it wouldn’t decide to rain while we were a long way from the van. Apart from doing a slight detour in August both walks are the same and many of the photos were taken from the same places along the way so I’ve combined them all into this one post.
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Since my walk round there two years ago I’d discovered that it’s possible to cross the Waterworks bridge which carries three huge pipes taking water from Thirlmere in Cumbria down to the Manchester area, so in August I decided to make a detour and go across but I was soon to wish I hadn’t. At the far side of the bridge a path led through a pleasant meadow to an area of woodland and that’s where things became a bit difficult. The woodland traversed a steep bank which fell directly down to the river, the path was very narrow in places with partially embedded tree roots just waiting to trip me up and several parts of it had crumbled away leaving very little between me and the steep drop down to the water. Even without the dogs negotiating that lot wasn’t easy but I finally emerged from the trees unscathed and back on level ground by the riverside.
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On my October walk I bypassed the Waterworks bridge and as I got near to where Artle Beck flows into the Lune I spotted a Little Egret stalking around in the shallows, presumably looking for his lunch, then across the beck and a bit farther on I came to the Caton Flow Measurement Station, a small square building set on top of a round concrete pillar and looking rather like a tree house but without the tree.
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In August my walk had taken me to the far end of the pedestrian bridge close to the Crook O’Lune picnic site while my October walk took me under the bridge and up the riverbank to the opposite end though I did walk a little way back along the bridge for a shot of the river to contrast with the August photos from the same spot. From the bridge it was a mile-and-a-half straight path back to the van and I’d just got back there when it started to rain so I’d completed the walk just in time.
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The rain didn’t last long though, by the time I’d got back on the M6 it had stopped and a few miles further south the sky gradually cleared. Tired out from their long walk Snowy and Poppie were so quiet in their transport kennels I almost had to check that I hadn’t left them behind at the picnic site. Although the afternoon had been cloudy and grey my walk had been much more enjoyable with the dogs than my August walk had been without them, and with the sky becoming increasingly brighter on the drive back home our day out ended as it began, in bright autumn sunshine.

Hest Bank circular walk

During a week’s leave from work in mid September and on a lovely warm sunny day I took myself off to Hest Bank just north of Morecambe for a canal and coast circular walk. Parking by the foreshore not far from the railway level crossing I made my way across the main road and up to bridge 118 on the canal; I hadn’t gone far along the path when I noticed I was being watched and at the end of a garden across the canal was a motley band of weird people with their equally weird pets, looking like escapees from a fairground ghost train. Maybe they were getting ready for Halloween but in mid September they were a bit early.
Being mid week the canal was very quiet and other than a couple of cyclists and a boat making its way up towards Carnforth I saw no-one. I’d walked this section of canal a year ago, going as far as bridge 122 before turning round and retracing my steps, but this time when I reached that same bridge I went up onto the lane which took me down onto the main A6 road.
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Across the road the lane continued up a short incline and took me through a very pleasant estate, a mixture of detached houses, bungalows and semis with well kept gardens, and I couldn’t help being amused at the quirky sign on the back of a van belonging to a chippy down in Heysham. Down the hill was another level crossing with the lane at the far side going uphill again, this time between hedges with a caravan site on one side. Through a hamlet of a dozen or so houses and I was on Bolton-le-Sands foreshore where a vast expanse of saltmarsh stretched out to the sea; across the bay was Grange-over-Sands and in the far distance to my right I could see the cottages and old chimney at Jenny Brown’s Point near Silverdale.
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Passing a few more houses and a large field I came to a roadside parking area and Red Bank Farm caravan and camping site, and that’s where things went a bit not-quite-right. I wanted to find the Praying Shell sculpture and though I knew it was in the vicinity of the farm I didn’t know exactly where. A low stone wall separated the lane from the rocky foreshore and a few yards away was a very small and rather insignificant sign fastened to the bottom of a wooden post; with just one word – ‘Sculpture’ – it pointed south along the foreshore so that’s the way I went.
To say that the terrain was rough was an understatement. With no proper path and many large ankle-twisting rocks I had to pick my way along carefully and I was more than relieved when the rocks eventually gave way to shingle which in turn changed to grass, but I still hadn’t found the sculpture. A stone wall separated the foreshore from a field and set back in a corner was a bench with a couple sitting there so I asked if they knew where the sculpture was – they did, and it seemed that somehow I’d missed it. Rather than send me back along the rocks they directed me over a stile and across two fields where I finally found it on a small corner of the headland and almost back at the caravan site.
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The Praying Shell, unveiled in November 2013, was carved from limestone by artist Anthony Padgett. Although it overlooks the site where 23 illegal Chinese cockle pickers tragically lost their lives in 2004 and is generally thought to be a memorial to them it was (according to the artist) designed to inspire walkers venturing along the coastal path and was imagined before the tragedy occurred, though maybe its location isn’t exactly a coincidence.
That small piece of headland was surrounded by a wire fence with a locked farm gate but it was easy to climb over to get to the statue and just round the corner I found a rough steep slope leading from there down onto the rocky foreshore. I remembered passing the bottom of the slope as I walked along the rocks earlier but there had been nothing obvious to indicate that the sculpture was at the top – no wonder I hadn’t found it.
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With just a few shots taken I climbed back over the fence and headed back through the fields and down to the foreshore which was now much easier to walk along than previously. Past the house which had featured in the 2021 series of The Bay and which I photographed last year and the next lane along the foreshore took me back to where I’d left the van. I did consider getting a snack from the nearby cafe but decided to wait until I got back into Morecambe where I could get a meal from the seafront cafe I usually go to when I visit the resort.
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Aside from negotiating the hazards of the rocky section of foreshore the walk had been a good one, especially along the canal, but I’ve done that particular section twice now so the next time I’m up that way I’ll have a change of direction and head south instead.

Last Drop circular walk

After most of the month being cloudy and grey with a fair bit of rain we had a few days of sunshine last week so on one of the days I took Snowy and Poppie on the first really good walk of the year. At first I was reluctant to take the camera as it’s a walk I’ve done many times before and featured on here more than once but the day was too nice not to take it.
A short 7-minute drive from home took me to the Last Drop Village and leaving the van in the rear car park I set off across the adjacent fields, with the moorland of Winter Hill in the distance ahead of me. I expected a lot of the ground to be wet and muddy but a few recent very frosty nights and cold days made sure most of it was frozen and dry. The track at the far side of the fields took me through an area of scrubland to the traffic-free lane bypassing the old quarry; at one time I enjoyed wandering round the quarry and would often see rabbits scampering about in the sunshine but now it’s really overgrown and has an oppressive feel to it. Even the once pretty little pond on the top level is so overgrown and choked with weed that the one photo I took was immediately deleted.
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At the end of the lane I turned right along the path running between farmland and the fenced-off forested rear edge of the quarry; if I was going to encounter any wet and muddy patches that’s where I would find them as the narrow drainage ditch running between the path and the fields often overflows in wet weather but again everything was dry. A left turn at the end of the path took me up the side of the first field to the gate onto the golf course and not far along the track I was rewarded with the sight of a small clump of early flowering bright yellow gorse, while further along the iced-over pond looked like it needed some work to clear all the overgrown reeds.
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Just past the pond three golfers pushed their trolleys up a track on the left to the green at the top of the slope and out of sight on my right the sound of a small tractor indicated that some work was being undertaken somewhere. Following the track downhill I eventually came to the fence and gate separating the golf course from open grazing land and I was just about to open the gate when my eye was caught by a movement a distance ahead. Two deer were running across the field but before I could even lift up the camera they had disappeared into the trees at the far side.
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Across the fields a second gate and a cattle grid took me over a small brook to the lane leading across the castellated railway bridge to the grounds of Turton Tower. The bridge was built in 1847 following the construction of the Bolton to Blackburn railway line; James Kay, who owned the tower and it’s grounds at the time, commissioned two footbridges across the line, specifying that they had to be medieval in style to be in keeping with the rest of the estate, and while the second bridge is just a normal footbridge this one incorporates a viewing tower.
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At the far side of the bridge a path took me through the nearby woods where I wandered along to the formal garden and lawn then round to the front of the building. Back on the lane it was just a couple of hundred yards to the main road then almost a mile-and-a-half of road walking to get back to the Last Drop Village.
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Not actually a true village the Last Drop was originally converted from a group of derelict 17th century farm buildings known as Orrell Fold, belonging to successive generations of the Orrell family who once lived at Turton Tower. In 1930 William Carr, a well known farmer and racehorse owner who lived locally, bought the farm for stabling and exercising his horses but over the years the unoccupied buildings gradually fell into disrepair and eventually in 1963 the farm and its land were sold.
The new owner, Carlton Walker, was a man of considerable foresight and he soon began the task of creating the Last Drop Village out of the derelict buildings. The first building to be completed in 1964 was the restaurant and during a celebratory meal Mr Walker’s friends offered him ‘the last drop’ of a bottle of wine, and it was that which gave the place its name. The village today is home to a hotel, spa and leisure suite, banqueting suites and conference rooms, a quaint tea shop, the Drop Inn, several independent small shops and a gallery, and it’s also a very popular wedding venue.
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With the sunshine just taking the edge off the coldness of the day and the bonus of seeing the deer running through the fields it had been a very enjoyable walk, now it was time to head for home and an appointment with a mug of coffee.

At long last, a decent dog walk

After what seems like weeks of constantly dull grey days and interminably wet weather culminating in storm whatever-it-was-called and a couple of days of (fortunately very short-lived) snow showers, Thursday two days ago was absolutely glorious. Now the dogs are like me, they hate wet weather and their recent walks have been relegated to ’round the block’ or even just ’round the garden’ if it’s been really bad, so Thursday’s sunshine and blue sky was a good opportunity to finally get out for a decent local walk.
Across the nearby park was Smithills Open Farm with the two farm dogs sunning themselves behind some newly installed railings, then along the lane I came to the hidden lake in the grounds of Smithills Hall, although with no leaves on the trees it isn’t exactly hidden just now. In a corner of the lawns Little Bess’s grave contained the remains of just one artificial plant and across the far side two ladies, both wearing red coats, were sitting on a bench enjoying the sunshine.
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There’s only one thing wrong with taking the camera on a local walk which I’ve done several times previously – the photos I take are almost the same as the ones I took before and the ones before that, but it was such a lovely day I hadn’t wanted to leave the camera behind. The path alongside what had been the old garden centre boundary wall was covered in russet coloured leaves, soggy from all the recent rain, and at the far end of the nearby field two ponies, one rugged up against the cold weather, mooched about quietly minding their own business.
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Beyond the field the path crossed a narrow brook and joined up with three other paths; from there I could see across 16 miles to the city centre high rises of Manchester, including the ugly Beetham Tower, and I could even make out the red and white Printworks sign. The shortest route from there would have been straight on but I took the path on the right which meandered down and round the edge of a small area of woodland before joining up with the far end of one of the other paths.
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From there it was just a 5-minute walk through the nearby farm yard and down a short lane to the main road then ten minutes down the hill and I was back in my own street. It had been good to get out into the fresh air and though it was cold the sunshine and blue sky had made it a very enjoyable walk.

Somewhere new – Ennerdale Water

After a bit of a misty start it turned into a beautiful sunny morning and for the last full day of the holiday I was going to somewhere I hadn’t previously been. Ennerdale Water is the most westerly of all the lakes and according to various sources is the least visited – with my preference for quieter places I was looking forward to a good dog walk where hopefully I wouldn’t meet too many people.
It was a nice easy drive from Cockermouth down the A5086 then round the country lanes and through Ennerdale Bridge village. With a choice of two car parks I went to Bowness Knott on the north side of the lake first but didn’t stay long. The car park itself was set among tall conifers at the edge of a large forest on the narrower part of the lake; with the sun behind the higher fells to the south quite a bit of the area was in shade so I only took a short walk before driving to the other car park, making a couple of brief photo stops on the way.
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The second car park, Bleach Green, was at the south western corner of the lake where a short walk through a wooded area and along a wide pleasant path took me to the widest and more open part. A small weir allowed water from the lake to feed the River Ehen and the views down the lake itself were stunning.
When I’d first thought about going to Ennerdale I’d also thought about walking all the way round the lake – at only two-and-a-half miles long and less than a mile wide at its widest point it certainly sounded doable – but that was before I’d read some information about the area on a ‘Lakes walking’ website. It seemed that a certain section of the path on the south side involved a fair bit of scrambling and ‘hands on rock’ – not a good idea with two dogs in tow so for safety and sanity I stuck to the western end of the lake.
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A path close to the weir took me through an area of small trees and bracken before emerging close to the lakeside and several times I went down to the water’s edge to let Snowy and Poppie have a paddle. At one point I came across a couple of backpacks and a coolbag on the ground and just down below the path two ladies were having a lakeside picnic; they had chosen a great spot and it looked like they were having a nice time. 
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As I got round to the north side of the lake the path veered away from the water and took me through an area of scrubland; a little way ahead was a gate so I used that as my turn-round point and retraced my steps. About halfway along I saw something I hadn’t noticed before as I was too busy looking at the views over the lake. In a grassy clearing set back off the path was a bench and what appeared to be a good view over the nearby fields but the bench was occupied by a couple with an off-lead dog bigger than my two so I didn’t go for a closer look.
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Back at the weir I found that corner of the lake was occupied by an older teenager/young man about to set off on a stand-up paddle board. I watched him for a while as he paddled further out across the water; he was obviously on his own and with no life jacket so I hoped he would be okay if he fell in, especially as there was a “Danger – deep water – No swimming” sign close to where he’d left his things.
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With the final couple of shots taken I headed back to the van for the return drive to the camp site – it had been a lovely few hours out and I’d been very impressed by the views around Ennerdale. Since getting back home I’ve found out that there’s a cafe in the nearby village so with the possibility of being able to get a coffee and a snack that area is now on my ‘must return’ list of places.

Bassenthwaite Lake and Latrigg Fell

A day in which I climb a mountain the hard way….
It was another lovely morning full of sunshine, blue sky and fluffy white clouds, with the nearby fells so clear they seemed to be within touching distance so I knew just what I was going to do with my day. Distance-wise, this time I was only driving the 11 miles to Keswick but making a photo stop on the way.
There aren’t many places on Bassenthwaite Lake where you can actually get to the water but the north west corner is one of them and it was on my route from the camp site to Keswick. Leaving the van in the first of two small parking areas set back off the lane I went down through the trees and walked along the lakeside until I could go no further without getting very wet feet. Heading south down the A66 a while later the views across the lake were so lovely that I pulled up briefly in a lay-by to get another couple of shots before continuing on to Keswick.
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A couple of days before the start of the holiday a suggestion had been made via email that if I wanted (quote) “a nice fell walk that doesn’t involve mountaineering  but gives stupendous views” I might like to consider Latrigg, so having checked it out on Google maps that’s where I was headed. Parking was on a residential road on the outskirts of Keswick where an unadopted lane ran for quite a distance, taking me over the A66 to the start of the footpath up the fell. An information board showed the various paths and bridleways around and up the fell and as the main path in front of me seemed to be quite steep and uneven I decided to take a level path through the woods instead.
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All went well for quite a distance and it was a very pleasant walk but then I hit a big problem – a huge area of woodland extending almost to the top of the hillside had been felled and ripped out by machinery and any semblance of a footpath had completely disappeared. With nothing but piles of dried out branches and vegetation and the remains of tree trunks sticking up everywhere it looked like the aftermath of the apocalypse. So I had two choices – retrace my steps to the main path or try to find a way up the hillside. I suppose I should really have turned back but dogged determination made me continue, using the machinery tracks as a path.
The first hundred yards or so weren’t too bad but then the machinery tracks went vertically up the extremely steep hillside. To make matters worse some of them held pools of stinky, muddy stagnant water and I often had to walk along the top of the banked up earth in the centre – negotiating tree stumps and dead vegetation and trying not to let myself or the dogs slip into muddy water was certainly a challenge. I should really have taken a photo to show just how steep the hillside was but concentrating on getting up to the top without doing myself a mischief meant I wasn’t really in the mood to use the camera.
The start of my epic climb
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Looking back
Looking along the fell – a quarter of the way up, still a long way to go
Just over halfway up and over to my right was a barbed wire fence and a wooden gate leading to a very pleasant looking grassy part of the hillside – if I could get to it the rest of the climb might be a bit easier. There was only one thing wrong – running down the hillside in a dip between me and the gate was a stream which needed to be crossed. Carefully picking my way down into the dip I found a very narrow bit of the stream where I could step across via a couple of flat stones then up the other side of the dip I finally reached the gate.
Unfortunately it was fastened shut but that was no problem, I just posted the dogs through the bottom of it then climbed over – and what a difference there was in the terrain. A narrow but smooth and level grassy track led through an area of russet coloured bracken, the few small trees dotted about sported their autumn berries and the views to the south and east were opening up in front of me – it all looked rather lovely. It wasn’t long though before I had to start climbing again; the hillside was just as steep as before but at least the grassy track made things a bit easier.
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Finally, just over an hour after I started my epic climb, I reached the top of the hillside and the gate which took me onto the ridge of the fell. It was a joy to see some reasonably flat land and after such a steep and strenuous climb I felt like I should have planted a flag there to celebrate conquering the mountain. My climb hadn’t been without incident though – several times I’d been attacked by bits of dried out tree lying on the ground and the back of my legs had sustained several scratches which still haven’t completely disappeared. 
I hadn’t been on top of the fell for long when four RAF jets came out of nowhere and flew at speed one after the other right over my head. They were very loud and very low, so low that they only just skimmed the top of the fell and the earsplitting noise terrified Snowy but fortunately they were gone in seconds, disappearing out of sight up Bassenthwaite Lake.
The summit of Latrigg looking east
Looking south east
View north west towards Bassenthwaite Lake
View over Keswick to Derwentwater and beyond
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After spending some time taking in the views and recovering from my climb I set off on the downward journey, this time on the path that I should really have gone up. It was a fairly easy-to-walk zig-zag route which gave me some more lovely views over other nearby fells, with the last few hundred yards of the path being the steep bit which I should have gone up at the start. Eventually I was back on the unadopted lane crossing over the A66 and my last shot of the day was taken just before I reached the road where I’d left the van.
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View along the Vale of Keswick to Bassenthwaite
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At 1,207ft Latrigg is one of the smaller fells – I’d climbed up it, walked down it, got some good photos in the process and the dogs had a good walk, now it was time to go back to the camp site and relax for the rest of the day. 
While writing this post I came across a photo on the internet which I’m including here. The screen capture from Google maps shows the hillside before the Forestry Commission got their machines on it – the blue line is where I walked through the woods, the yellow shows the area of trees which have been felled and the red is my route up the hillside. The photo shows the steepness of the hillside – although the bottom of the hill is obscured the red line shows part of my route to the top, with the white spot denoting the gate I climbed over.
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Photo credit – The Keswick Reminder
Would I go up Latrigg Fell again? At the moment the jury’s out on that one but I won’t deny that the views were certainly ‘stupendous’ so if I’m on another camping holiday in Cumbria and the weather is right then maybe – although if I do I’ll make sure I use the proper path to get there.

Wednesday walk – keeping it local

I hadn’t originally intended to post this walk as there’s nothing special about it and it’s also one I featured in 2018, however with the recent constantly cloudy and rainy weather keeping me close to home I haven’t really taken the dogs anywhere worth photographing or writing about.
I walked this route for the first time this year on a lovely sunny day during the Easter weekend then did the same walk again yesterday to get some contrasting photos now the trees have fully come to life, although this time the sky was also contrasting. Clear blue in one direction but grey and cloudy in another it certainly gave me some different shots, though several times I had to contend with the sun disappearing just at the wrong moment.
Ten minutes walk through the avenues close to home brought me to the playing fields at the secondary school where I once worked as a supervisor, and close to one corner was a tree which, for some unknown reason, I’ve had a particular liking for over the years. Another few minutes brought me to the garden at the side of the Grade ll listed pavilion, once the home of a local tennis club established in 1923 but now owned by a local micro brewery since 1995, then round the corner was the top of Yew Tree Lane and an enclosed area of spare land housing what I can only describe as a large Hobbit house. Shed, garage, workshop? – whatever its purpose it was almost completely covered in trees, with only the door being visible.
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At the bottom of the lane was Yew Tree Cottage, now hardly visible through the leafy tree branches, and a footpath leading past the cottage’s extensive garden to a bridge over Eagley Brook. At the far side of the bridge I went down to the riverside yesterday, the first time I’ve ever been down there, although I couldn’t go very far before I had to go back to the path.
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Back above the river the path took me steeply uphill to the cobbled lane leading past the side of Hall i’th Wood museum, and fastening the dog leads to the museum gates at Easter I was able to get a shot of Snowy and Poppie together, although it took several attempts as Snowy wouldn’t stand still. Going round to what was once the front of the museum I took a few shots in the parkland, though in a huge contrast to Easter the sky yesterday looked ominously dark over the distant Winter Hill.
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Back on the cobbled lane I followed it down past the boundary wall of a local business premises partially hidden by the trees then along a short path above the river to another bridge and a second cobbled lane leading up to the main road. At the top of the lane and set back off the road was a small triangle of land which displayed some lovely daffodils at Easter, then just beyond it was Watermillock, once a gentleman’s country mansion house set in extensive grounds.
Constructed between 1882 and 1886 for Thomas Thwaites, one half of Eden and Thwaites bleachworks owners, it was subsequently inhabited by local mill owner T M Hesketh and his family, then after ending its days as a private residence it became a military hospital in WW1, run by the Red Cross for pilots with horrific burns and other serious injuries. In 1937 the house was used as a hostel for refugee children evacuated from Bilbao during the Spanish Civil War, though they only stayed for about a year before going back home to Spain.
In subsequent years Watermillock became an old people’s home and also acted as a subsidiary to the local hospitals’ laundry; it stayed as an old people’s home into the 1990s when it was finally closed, and eventually it was converted by Banks’s Brewery into a restaurant with function rooms, though for the last few years it’s been a Toby Carvery.
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From Watermillock it was all road walking to get back home though zig-zagging though various avenues on both days gave me the opportunity to photograph several colourful shrubs and trees in different gardens along the way.
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So there you have it, the same walk on two different days, it’s just a shame that yesterday’s blue sky was interrupted by varying degrees of cloud though the dogs enjoyed the walk anyway. Fingers crossed there will soon be lots of blue sky and sunshine to come and we will be able to explore other places not quite so close to home.

Looking back – 2020

As another year draws to a close it’s time for me to look back on some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. With dull grey days and almost incessant rain January was very much a ‘nothing’ type of month; good walks and outdoor photography were out of the question and not just because of the weather. Early in the month, and for no apparent reason, little Sophie suffered a debilitating stroke so all my time and attention was devoted to caring for her and helping her to recover in the best way I could.
February was a particularly sad month. In spite of medication and all my care and attention, after almost five weeks of constant nursing and a lovely morning when I really did think Sophie was going to recover she sadly slipped quietly away while sleeping in her bed at the side of mine – the grief and feelings of loss were overwhelming and it hurt like hell that I didn’t get the chance to hold her one last time and tell her how much I loved her. She was buried in a corner of the garden close to Sugar and I always keep a plant of some sort on her little patch. Later that month a break in the weather gave me a sunny Sunday when I was able to visit Hornby Castle to see the snowdrops; under normal circumstances Sophie would have been with me so it was an afternoon out done very much in her memory and after several weeks of not being able to go anywhere it was good to be out for a few hours.
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After my sunny afternoon at Hornby Castle the rain was back and my planned visit to see the snowdrops at Lytham Hall didn’t happen until the beginning of March. By then most of the snowdrops were over but it was still an enjoyable visit. Just a week later I spent a very enjoyable time looking round Lark Hill Place, a reconstructed late Victorian street set within Salford Museum & Art Gallery, followed by looking round the museum itself. It was a grey and very chilly day but by the middle of the month the weather turned sunny again and much warmer, and I managed another couple of visits to Lytham before my freedom was curtailed by various restrictions.
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The good weather which arrived mid March continued into April, getting warmer all the time, and I discovered a few different local walks which I could take right from my own front door. On my Easter walk I was lucky enough to see a small herd of deer in a field not too far from home, on another local walk which I’ve done many times before I came across two adult llamas with two young ones in a paddock at the open farm near home and a walk round the Jumbles reservoir gave me the unexpected sighting of a jay, the first time I’ve ever seen one.
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The first few days of May saw the previously lovely weather turning back to rain but as I was in pain from a pulled muscle in my back I couldn’t go anywhere anyway. Neither the rain nor the pain lasted very long though, the warm sunny weather soon returned and I was back to walking again, both locally and further afield once various restrictions were relaxed. Local walks included Barrow Bridge and a quarry I’d never been to before then during the spring bank holiday I walked along Skippool Creek and a short section of the Lancaster Canal.
The last day of the month, which was probably one of the hottest so far, saw me walking round a gorgeous section of the River Lune at Caton, a place which was completely new to me but which I’ll certainly return to. May was also the month when Poppie slipped her lead on a Jumbles walk and ran into the water after some ducks, giving me several heart-stopping minutes when she wouldn’t come back, and Michael promised to order a pizza for tea one day but gave me a sausage roll instead.
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The arrival of June brought more lovely hot weather and my birthday and a few days later, while strimming the long grass in the back garden, I had the lovely surprise of finding an Elephant Hawk moth, something which I’d never seen before and which prompted me to leave an area of the garden uncut to encourage other forms of wildlife to visit. I had a couple of afternoons in Manchester and walks away from home that month were along the Glasson branch of the Lancaster Canal and round three different parts of Heysham – the nature reserve and Half Moon Bay, neither of which I’d been to before, plus the village itself. I also went just a short drive from home and walked from the lake at Brinscall to the village of White Coppice.
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There was a deterioration in the weather at the beginning of July and the first few days were damp and grey but it didn’t last long and the sunshine was soon back. Early in the month I got wind of a new street art installation on the side of an old mill building in town and the middle of the month saw me returning to White Coppice as part of a walk from Heapey, during which I was lucky enough to see two damsel flies at close quarters. Towards the end of the month I took a drive to Morecambe and walked quite a long distance along the promenade from south to north and back again. July was also the month when Michael decided to rearrange his room and I opened the door to find a scene of utter chaos with furniture and stuff all over the place, though it wasn’t long before everything was tidy again.
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The early days of August saw lots of patchy cloud covering the blue skies and though it meant changing my plans a couple of times as I needed clear skies for the photos I wanted to get it didn’t stop me from going out. A look round the big car boot sale at St. Michael’s was followed by a walk along part of the River Wyre and a look in the nearby church then later in the month I had days out to Knott End and Fleetwood, where I went to photograph the old wrecked boats on the marshes before looking round Fleetwood itself. August was also the month when I picked up the wrong sandwich from a shop near work one day and discovered that I definitely don’t  like jalapeno mayo.
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The last few days of August sent a storm which put down some quite torrential rain but by the beginning of September the weather had cleared again. Early in the month I took the 35-minute drive to see the Singing Ringing Tree near Burnley and this was followed a few days later by a walk along the Lancaster Canal at Garstang, then the 12th saw the start of a 2-week stay-cation when the weather was so good I was hardly at home. As well as various local walks I also visited two churches (one local and one which I’ve still to write about) walked along another section of the Lancaster Canal, went to Corporation Park in Blackburn to find the Colourfields panopticon, had an afternoon in Southport with Michael, enjoyed a day in Kirkby Lonsdale and had a day out in Morecambe which included a ‘behind the scenes’ tour at the Winter Gardens Theatre.
Towards the end of the month and on what would have been Sophie’s birthday Snowy came to my attention, and two days later she came to live with me. Initially a timid, scared, unsocialised little scrap she gradually came out of her shell and has turned into a funny, affectionate and mischievous little character. Call it fate, coincidence or what you will but as Snowy’s arrival coincided with Sophie’s birthday I sometimes think that she was actually sent by Sophie to help fill the space in my heart and my home which Sophie herself left behind.
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The good weather continued into the first couple of days of October and just a week after I got Snowy I took her for her first long walk, four miles along a section of the Leeds/Liverpool Canal. The weather went rapidly downhill straight after that and though most mornings started off with sunshine it was guaranteed to be raining by 9.30am, rain which would last for the rest of each day. Dog walks were kept to a minimum and I only went round the local avenues, with the canal walk being the last proper non-local walk which I did. Also the 9th of the month saw this blog becoming four years old.
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The rain continued into November though there was a very brief break one day in the middle of the month and I came out of work that morning to blue sky and sunshine so I left the van there and went for a walk round the nearby Jumbles to try to catch some late autumn colour before it all disappeared. 
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Unfortunately the sunshine didn’t last and the rain returned the following day, lasting right into this month and almost up to Christmas, though there was just one day early in the month when it did come nice enough to do another local walk and discover somewhere I’d never been before. 
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I had all my Christmas shopping done and dusted several days beforehand so I didn’t have to dash round Asda at the last minute and Christmas itself was a very quiet affair with just the two of us. Michael only really got one full day though as he was back at work on Boxing Day, whereas I’ve been off from my job since the 23rd and don’t go back until January 4th so I’m enjoying the rest. I still have a handful of this year’s posts to write yet though so if anyone wants me I’ll be in my usual place – here at my pc.