Sunday, 28 September 2014

Eskdale and the Duddon Valley

Eskdale and the Duddon Valley

Nine days off work and six of them was going to be used for my mission in the Lake District. From 23/9/2011. I took the car up the motorway and back into the lakes and back to the Youth Hostel at Boot, where I have a friend working.  Only to find out the Youth Hostel was going to be full all weekend. So I had an hour with my friend, then it was off to the campsite. 

The next morning after a night of rain I went back to the Y.H.A, I had a slow relaxing morning with no rush to start a walk, because there were still rain showers happening, so I had breakfast and made my food up for the day, then sat around waiting for the weather to improve.

Boat How and Eskdale Moor walk.

7-mile circular. 24/9/2011
The weather seems to be improving so I phoned my daughter to say I was starting a walk at 12pm, so I took the car down to Boot village and parked up in a car park., from there it was a small walk into the village. The walk I had planned was both a Wainwright walk (Boat How) and a walk from the book Ancient Lakeland (Eskdale Moor).
I left the village for a steady climb up onto the moor, the views around was one of low cloud covering every fell top. I passed the peat huts and made my way to Brat’s Hill. 
I had a spot of lunch at Acre How, the view from here was the Brat’s Hill circle. where I am sat I can imagine other people also sitting here on this spot, back in the Bronze Age, they probably would have seen more of wooded landscape, as they have found ancient trees found in the peat, and the climate was also much drier. Pollen analysis at Burnmoor Tarn suggests a date of around 2000 BC the early Bronze Age.
The Brat's Hill Circle is a ring of small stones, inside the circle, there are five burial mounds. Brat's Hill has forty-two stones forming an irregular circle with a diameter of 30.4m. There are five funerary cairns within the circle together with two further stones.

Brat's Hill Circle

Brat's Hill Circle 

Excavation of two cairns, by Wright in the 1820's revealed cists of five stones containing fragments of burnt bone and antlers. These burial cairns were placers were the dead were buried. At first, most people were buried lying on their sides with their knees drawn up to their chest. later on, cremation became more popular and people's ashes were placed in a pottery urn within the grave. Placing grave goods with burials was common. These include bronze, flint and stone tools, but also a jet, bone and amber jewellery.

A short walk from this circle took me to the White Moss Circles, both with a central cairn and both only slightly smaller than Brat’s Hill. To the north-west of Brat's Hill stone circle lie White Moss Northeast and White Moss Southwest stone circles, the former measures 16.2m in diameter and has eleven stones forming the circle and a funerary cairn at the centre, the latter measures 16.6m in diameter and has fourteen stones forming the circle and a funerary cairn at the centre.

White Moss circles
Another short walk took me to where Longrigg Stone Circles should be the cairns were easy to find but the stones what made the circles was harder because of the bracken growing around them. Low Longrigg Northeast and Low Longrigg Southwest The former measures 21.7m by 20.4m, has 15 stones forming an irregular circle, and contained two funerary cairns. The latter measures 15.2m in diameter, has nine stones forming the circle, and contained a funerary cairn at the centre.
From these circles I made my way to Boat Howe and the summit for another break, only to find I left my sandwich box back on Acre How, so I had to double back 45 minutes later I was back on Boat How.
The weather was still the same low cloud no views of Scafell or Great Gable, the ground everywhere was soaked through and boggy, but none of this dampened my spirits so from Boat Howe I headed downhill with good views of Burnmoor Tarn, pollen analysis from this tarn date the circles on the moor from around 2000 BC-the early Bronze Age.

Burnmoor Tarn
From the tarn I took a path back to Boot, this path took me into the Whillan Beck Valley a nice valley and the sun was making an appearance with good views over to Green Crag and Harter Fell.It’s been a good interesting walk as I finish off in Boot shame about the long distance views, it’s been a walk of solitude only met two other walks while exploring. 

Green Crag

7-mile circular
Sunday the 25th of September, from the campsite I made my way this morning back to Y.H.A, and had my breakfast and made my pack up for the day, the weather today dry and cloudy today. The start of this walk was the youth hostel, so I phoned in to say what time I was setting off and what walk I was on today. 

The headwaters of Eskdale and the Duddon are separated by a ridge falling south-west, this line of high ground continues for 15 miles, finally meeting the sea on the slopes of Black Combe. The first fells on this ridge are Hard Knot, Harter Fell and Green Crag.

From the Youth Hostel I headed for Penny Hill on the same path I last used when descending Harter Fell on my last holiday, I found one of the grassy peat tracks, so I followed the zigzag path passing ruined peat huts, these peat huts are so characteristic of Eskdale, as seen on my last walk these peat huts was once used for storing peat for fuel, today it’s the Sellafield Power Station providing the power, how times have changed.

I reached the boggy plateau making my way for Crook Crag, there were no public paths up here just faint tracks, I started the climb of Crook Crag, up and over down the dip and up to the rocky top of Green Crag, with good views around only the Scafell range covered in cloud.

Summit of Green Crag
From the summit I made my way down heading for Lower Birker Tarn, trying to find a decent path and to stay out of the bogs, it was not till I was back on level ground I picked up a good path passing the tarn now heading for Birker Force, looking for a path to take me close to Birker Force, not much luck but some nice views of the woodlands of Eskdale has I descended back down into the valley.

Near the valley bottom, I decided to extend the walk by following a track to the next bridge on the river then returning on the opposite side of the river back to Doctors Bridge, last used on my Esk Valley walk in the summer, and this took me to the end of the walk. It’s been a lovely walk on this hot sunny afternoon.

River Esk

Irton Pike  

5 ¼ miles circular.

A lovely sunny morning in Eskdale Green, the walk was starting from Irton road railway station.Irton Pike is a low summit standing out above woodland. Irton Pike is the end of the long ridge starting with Illgill Head and finishing at Irton Pike.

From the railway station I made my up the road to the minor road into Miterdale Valley, where I followed this till I came across the footpath to cross the River Mite and then the steady climb up through the woodlands passing through native woodland and into a pine plantation and the occasional woodland clearance, what gave me the chance to see views across the valleys. I passed through a gate onto level ground with views now across the Wasdale valley.

In the book I was using the Outlying Fells of Lakeland by AW he mentions 'what is its purpose, if any? These piles of stones', what I now have come across, the answer is in fact a tumulus excavated in 1958, and dates from the Bronze Age; the tumulus was probably a grave of chief or elder.The finds from the tumulus was nine pieces of ‘food vessel’ pottery which indicate a date of around 1700 BC, two flint scrapers, a blade and a knife and a 100 piece jet necklace beads (which are thought to have come from the east coast) and a remarkable ‘cobble’ roughly carved in the form of a human head.

Irton Pike tumulus
From the tumulus I made my way to the summit of Irton Pike for the grand view, on this beautiful sunny day, I sat there soaking it all in.From the summit I made way down to the road for the walk back along the road back to the railway station, it was not a busy road, just the odd car, and another walk of solitude not meeting any one on the walk.

View from Irton Pike to Wasdale

Devoke Water part 1

5 mile circular.
The second walk of today: on this stunning sunny afternoon. I took the car up onto Birker Fell Road which  links Eskdale to Duddon Valley.
When researching for this walk, I came across a natural history walk and an archaeological walk, and of course an AW walk. I decided to mix an AW walk with the archaeological walk, as I have done on previous walks, and save the natural history walk for tomorrow.
Devoke Water is sited up on Birker Moor and sites in a valley surrounded by low fells, its these low fells that I wanted go and explore, so from the road junction where I left my car, I set off along the track heading for Devoke Water, then took a faint path of to my right heading for Rough Crag, on the way up you pass through an area of Bronze Age clearance cairns, but there was no obvious piles of stones amongst the boggy ground of deer grass , but there was small humps around covered in Matt grass, looking closer you could see the odd stone poking out, so these must be the clearance cairns of Bronze Age farmers who use to use this area.

Devoke Water

I carried on up to the summit of Rough Crag for the wide open views, keeping a course parallel with the shore of the tarn I made my way to Water Crag passing more ancient cairns, from the summit of Water Crag it was a decent to Devoke Water and the outlet of the tarn crossing boggy ground to a great burial cairn, it is visible for miles about, sadly, much of the cairn has been turned into a windbreak, but this doesn't seem to detract from the magnificence of its position in the landscape. 

Great cairn

Pollen cores taken from Devoke Water have shown the changing vegetational history of this area over the last 5000 years and show episodes of forest clearance and a  development of grassland through the Bronze Age.
This place as a feeling of remoteness, it is a place to sit and rest and imagine what it would have been like thousands of years ago.
From the cairn I crossed the stream of Linbeck Gill and started my climb up the pathless grass slope to White Pike, with wider views opening  up, from White Pike it levelled out as head for the summit of Yoadcastle, it was a small scramble to the summit and the view was excellent, it was then a short walk to the summit of Woodend Heights.
From Woodend Heights, I took a route straight down heading for Devoke Water and the boathouse, from the boathouse it was the main track back to the finish. I must again say it’s another walk where I never come across anybody it’s been an all-around good weather and a good walk.

Wild camp 

Devoke Water walk part two 

4-mile circular
I had a beautiful evening and night wild camping at the crossroads and now on this sunny morning, I was going back to Devoke Water for my second walk a natural history walk. 
Back on the main track to Devoke Water, passing areas of peat cuttings, made me start to think about prehistory clearance of the original woodlands for pasture on these moorlands, they must start the soils on the downward trend towards acid infertility, now only heather and grass can grow, due to overgrazing by sheep.

One type of grass the nardus grasslands has been by colonisation of poor ground, it is a form of vegetation typical of sites which were cleared of woodland at an early stage which has been grazed and leached to a moorland state such as the area around Devoke Water.

Matt grass
The area around Devoke Water is rich in Bronze Age cairns and settlements, the settlers would have cleared the trees and stones.

Back on the walk, I passed some large boulders each with a yellow top, looking closer at these rocks you could see different colours; these are lichen growing on the rocks.  Known as Lasallia pustulata (Rock tripe)The track I was following came to the boathouse on the shore of Devoke Water and there on the horizon was the great cairn, so I followed the shoreline aiming for the cairn, passing the shrub-covered island and to the cairn and time for a rest using the cairn as windbreak.

Back on the walk, I passed some large boulders each with a yellow top, looking closer at these rocks you could see different colours; these are lichen growing on the rocks.  Known as Lasallia pustulata (Rock tripe)The track I was following came to the boathouse on the shore of Devoke Water and there on the horizon was the great cairn, so I followed the shoreline aiming for the cairn, passing the shrub-covered island and to the cairn and time for a rest using the cairn as windbreak.

From the cairn, there was a climb up to the summit of Water Crag, and then down the opposite side of a small valley, crossing a boggy area to Brantrake Crag, the boggy area was covered in Red Deer grass Trichophorm cespitosum.It was so quiet and peaceful to sit here and enjoy the solitude.

Red Deer grass
The next object of my walk was to climb my way to Pike How and then back to the start.  Boggy in sections and no sign of a path through bracken and over rocks, I made a line for the road, it’s been a nice walk, but hard going, time to rest and enjoy the weather as I made it back to the car.

The next hour was used up by relaxing sat about enjoying the views trying to name the fells from crossroads on this sunny afternoon. I then took the car into the Duddon Valley and passed the village of Ulpha and found somewhere to park up, and had another hour of relaxing, because I have completed Eskdale and now onto Birker Fell and the exploration of the Duddon Valley. I will leave the rest of Birker Fell till I come another time. 

I wanted to do one mission in the Duddon Valley and that was going to be Stickley Pike. 
Crossroads view 

Stickle Pike

6-mile circular 
It was late afternoon time I started on the walk, I went going up through the bracken what covered the hillside, with views of the Duddon valley opening up.Once up top, it levelled out with my object in view for the first time Great Stickle rearing up in front of me, but no sign of Stickle Pike.Through the heather and bilberry I made my way to Great Stickle and started to climb up and I got my first view of Stickle Pike and its pyramid shape came into view, what a nice shapely fell.

From the summit, you could see and follow the river Duddon out into the estuary a nice viewpoint. My next objective was the walk and climb of Stickle Pike.The path to Stickle Pike was straightforward with a few ups and downs; I left my rucksack at the bottom of Stickle Pike and made my way to the summit about a 10-minute scramble up to the summit.

Duddon Estuary from Great Stickle 

In the words of Wainwright 'mountain summits are especially attractive when they are rocky, abrupt on all sides, small in extent and exciting. These are attributes in which Stickle Pike’s top scores over those of much higher and better-known fells'.

Stickle Pike

From the summit, I made my way back to the main track and picked up my rucksack and went on my way passing Stickle Tarn and down to the road to cross over to the other side. At this time in the day the sun was getting low in the sky so I had the choice to be made the higher track to Ravens Crag or to use the track that runs below it then meets up with higher track to head for the knot, I decided on the lower track to make up on time.

This small valley between the stickles and the Knot is known as Dunnerdale Beck. I arrived at the knot and stopped for a rest looking down to Broughton Mills where Wainwright started this walk in his book.I made my way down to the valley bottom and onto the road for a short section before crossing and making my way up to Green Bank Farm using green lanes, slowly climbing back up going pass Hovel Knot with the setting sun in view, the last section was a repeat of the start of the walk back into the Duddon Valley with the last of the light, another good walk done.

The Knot

I had already had decided that I was going to wild camp for the night in the Duddon valley, next to the sign that said no camping so I did not have to move the car.

It’s the last day of my exploration of the lakes and I wanted to do something different than walking, as I was already in the Duddon Valley, I decided on a bit of car exploration of this valley. So after breakfast, I packed up for the day and took the car just up the road to Ulpha village and parked up the car. 
The post office was open and I asked the lady in the shop if she put my phone on charge, it only needs an hour, she said yes, so this gave me an hour to explore the area around me. It was a nice sunny day so off  I went to look at the deciduous woodlands, mostly oak and did a bit of bird watching, nothing of great interest. 

I picked my phone up and thanked the lady and got back to my car drove up the valley passing through Seathwaite village, this village is going to be a base for walks for future missions in 2012.

I went through a wooded area with rocky outcrops and came to a car park below Harter Fell, so far the valley has been very wooded with lots of broad-leaved species of trees, but the last section of the wooded valley is known as the Dunnerdale Forest is a conifer plantation.
Back in the car, I carried on up the valley passing through Cockley Beck, where the valley area becomes open fields within u sided glacial valley; the road starts to climb to reach the summit of Wrynose Pass where I found a parking space and got out of the car to enjoy the views.

It's here on top of Wrynose Pass summit while having lunch that I decided what to do for the afternoon, the decision was to leave the national park and pay a visit to the R.S.P.B National Nature Reserve Leighton Moss, the reserve is just over the border in Lancashire near the M5 motorway.

Leighton Moss

Leighton Moss occupies a shallow valley between low ridges of Carboniferous limestone, and now forms the most extensive area of reedbeds in northern England.Leighton Moss was former a raised bog a great dome of peat, till it was slowly cut out bit by bit for the use of fuel in a blast furnace at Leighton in the eighteenth century. Then when all the peat was gone, the land was used as farm land with pumps draining the land till 1918 when it was abandoned and land became boggy once more with areas of open water and succession started with tree growth and the area was used for wild-fowling.It was because of one certain bird the Bitten that in 1964 Leighton Moss became a reserve of Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

I had arrived at Leighton Moss and visited the visitor centre and cafe, and went to explore the reserve, moving  from hide to hide, seeing different species of ducks moving in out the reed beds into open water and then disappear again into the reeds, and in the background I got see a Marsh harrier hunting and while all of this was going on a Red deer came wading through the water, I got great views of a male stag resting on a island. 

Red Deer

What a great afternoon  I had, this is one nature reserve I shall be visiting again. it was late afternoon now so I headed off to find someone that sells fish and chips and I ended up in Arnside. while on the seafront eating fish and chips I was reading that this area  has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and that just up the road from where I was sat was Arnside Knott an important area for wildlife and it was on a hill top, So off I went to explore.

Bar-tailed godwit
I found the car park at Arnside Knott, and now it was evening, no time to explore, but I found a great place to sit with views to the north the mountains of the Lake District and a great view west over Morecambe BayI sat there relaxing thinking about my  holiday and every thing I had achieved through the week.  It  was getting late in the day  now the evening was soon drawing in on this hot sunny day, I found a good advantage point to see the sun setting, this site is stunning a limestone area of woodland and grassland, must come back to explore this place.


And that was it to my holiday after watching a great sunset I got in the car and headed for the motorway and home.