Close To The Start Of My Ascent

Blake Fell

This morning, I had a lovely 7 mile walk up Blake Fell in West Cumbria, which commenced from the Lamplugh side of the fell. It was hard going at times, with legs burning and my heart pumping away like a knackered old steam engine, but I did eventually get to the summit. Phew!

Close To The Start Of My Ascent
Close To The Beginning Of My Ascent

During the ascent of the fell, I met a cheery fella called John Black who had earlier taken off from me like a whippet in a race. Wow – he could walk. John urged me to join Whitehaven Ramblers, of which he is a current vice president. I am actually considering, but not sure if I could commit due to working shifts. Perhaps it’s something for me to do in my retirement years – the countdown for retirement has begun, with 9 years left on the clock.

Lamplugh Fell

Blake Fell is the highest point of the Loweswater Fells, an area of low grassy hills with steep sides overlooking the lake of Loweswater on one side, with the Cogra Moss reservoir on the other. Blake Fell is designated as a Marilyn.

Resting Among The Cotton Grass

The Loweswater Fells have been compared to the digits of a hand, radiating out south westward from the “palm” centred on Loweswater village. From the west these are Burnbank Fell, Blake Fell, Gavel Fell, Hen Comb and Mellbreak, the “thumb”. Blake Fell is the highest in this group, the summit area being a long ridge running southwest along the “finger”.

Poppy Leading The Way

Descending south west from the summit are High Pen (1,558 ft), Low Pen (1,427 ft), Godworth (1,197 ft) and Kelton Fell (1,020 ft). Beyond lie the Croasdale road and the West Cumberland plain.

Lake District National Park Boundary Stone

Standing aloof from these tops, but still within Blake Fell’s orbit, is Knock Murton (1,467 ft). This is a steep sided fell, forested on the western flank and with sufficient prominence that it is only barely excluded from the list of Marilyns in its own right. Blake Fell also extends a western ridge over the prominent top of Sharp Knott (1,581 ft) and the wooded High Howes (1,027 ft), falling gently to the village of Lamplugh. There are fantastic views of Cogra Moss reservoir from most locations.

Cogra Moss Reservoir

Knock Murton and Kelton Fell bear the scars of mining activity, having been the site of extensive haematite workings. Between 1853 and their closure in 1914 these mines produced anything up to 60,000 tons of ore per year. A railway, the Rowrah and Kelton Fell Line, was built up the valley between the two hills, the line of which can still be traced. A further working, the Croasdale Iron Mine, operated to the south of Kelton Fell.

Nearly There!

The summit of Blake Fell is a grassy dome decorated with a large cairn, the meeting point of paths from the various ridges. Westwards there is no higher ground to interrupt the sea view. To the east is a fine array of hills stretching from Binsey in the north to Grike in the south. The North Western Fells across Crummock Water are particularly fine, although much better seen from Loweswater End.

A Discarded Fence Post Points The Way To Blake Fell

From Loweswater village a direct line can be taken up Carling Knott, or a more southerly approach made via High Nook Beck. From the west, Lamplugh or Felldyke provide good access, lying at either end of a network of footpaths. These connect to the track alongside Cogra Moss which can be used to gain the high ground via Low Pen. Knock Murton can also be ascended from the head of the reservoir.

Blake Fell
Blake Fell
Looking Over Loweswater
Looking Over Loweswater
Poppy Taking In The Views
View From The Summit
Ennerdale Water

Ennerdale Water

On the western edge of the Lake District National Park, Ennerdale runs east to west from the high central fells to the rolling hills and moorland of West Cumbria and the Irish Sea coastal plain. Perhaps key to the very special feel of the place is the fact that it’s the only major Lake District valley to have no public road along it. Ennerdale Water, quiet and solitary, is one of the least developed of the English lakes. The water of the lake is extremely pure, and has been used as a source of drinking water for around 150 years.

In the 1920s, the Forestry Commission purchased Ennerdale and created a blanket of commercial conifer forest. This had an effect on the tradition of farming Herdwick sheep. Up until then, Ennerdale held a vital place in the Herdwick story, but 2,000 sheep had to be removed from Gillerthwaite and Ennerdale Dale when the valley was forested. However, there are still 16 farms with fell-grazing livestock in the wider Ennerdale valley.

Originally known as Broadwater, Ennerdale measures two and a half miles long, three quarters of a mile wide and 45 metres (150 feet) deep. Ennerdale’s western end is mountainous and panoramic and is dominated by the rocky bulk of Pillar (892 metres), Haycock (797m), Steeple ( 819m) and Great Scoat Fell (802m). Its eastern end is set in a flatter landscape which looks out over the West Cumbrian plain towards Whitehaven and Workington.

Ennerdale Water
Ennerdale Water
Ennerdale: Smithy Beck Walk

A Golden Forest Trail

Ennerdale offers up great opportunities for walking, with over 30 miles of public rights of way, forest roads and tracks. My forest image was captured at dawn, while following the Smithy Beck trail. The forest was bathed in magical golden rays of light, that appeared to be dancing among the trees like the spirits of untamed nature.

  • The Smithy Beck Trail starts and finishes at Bowness Knott car park. The walk is ideal for families but is not suitable for most pushchairs as the path is narrow in places.

The Tale Of The Forest

Mighty emperor is the forest,
High dominion does he wield,
And a thousand races prosper
‘Neath the shelter of his shield.

The moon, the sun and Lucifer
Do round his kingdom ever sphere;
While lords and ladies of his court
Are of the noble race of deer.

Hares, his heralds and his postmen,
Carry rapidly his mails;
Birds his orchestra composing,
Springs that tell him thousand tales.

Midst the flowers that grow in shadow
By the streams and in the grass,
Bees in golden clouds are swarming,
Ants in mighty armies pass …

Come, let us again be children
In the woods we loved of yore
So that life, and luck, and loving
Seem a game and nothing more.

For I feel that mother nature
All her wisdom did employ
But to raise you over living
And of life to make your toy.

You and I away shall wander
Quite alone where no one goes,
And we’ll lie beside the water
Where the flowering lime-tree grows.

As we slumber, on our bodies
Will the lime its petals lay,
While in sleep, sweet distant bagpipes
We will hear some shepherd play.

Hear so much, and closer clinging,
Heart to heart in lover’s wise,
Hear the emperor call his council
And his ministers advise.

Through the silver spreading branches
Will the moon the stream enlace,
And around us slowly gather
Courtiers of many a race.

Horses proud, as white as wave crests,
Many-branching horned stags,
Bulls with stars upon their fore heads,
Chamois from the mountain crags.

And the lime-tree they will question
Who we are; and stand and wonder,
While our host will softly answer
Parting wide his boughs asunder:

“Look, o look how they are dreaming
Dreams that in the forest grow;
Like the children of some legend
Do they love each other so”.

Mihai Eminescu
Ennerdale: Smithy Beck Walk
Ennerdale: Smithy Beck Walk
Walkmill Woodland

Walkmill Woodland

Today, I’ve been for a short walk at Walkmill Woodland – the home of the former Walkmill Colliery, at Moresby Parks in West Cumbria. The coal mining site closed in the 1960’s and the land was developed for recreation, although since then, Cumbria County Council have sold off large swathes of land to developers. I visited today, before all is lost.

  • The recreation land at Walkmill is currently for sale. Cumbria County Council claim that the land is surplus to requirements. The council have put in place mechanisms to ensure that footpaths, etc, are maintained by new owners.

At its peak, the mine employed over 900 people. Between 1911 and 1920, the annual output was 124,469 tons. Walkmill was nationalised in 1947, by the Labour Government, and became the property of the National Coal Board.

There were many tragedies to hit the mine during its lifetime. One of the most shocking deaths, was that of a George Curwen, aged 18 years. While working with two other men, Curwen had crawled beneath a wagon to lift a door and discharge coal into the conveyor. While doing so, five full wagons brought by his colleagues bumped the one he was working beneath. The wheel of a full wagon passed over his neck. A newspaper report from the time said, “He never spoke again, and died before the arrival of Dr. Cass, of Distington.”

  • Cumbria County Council have published a leaflet for those thinking of visiting the woodland. Get it here.
  • Walkmill is situated adjacent to the village of Moresby Parks and the Whitehaven Commercial Park, with access and car park just off Walkmill Bridge.
Walkmill Grasses
Walkmill Grasses
Old Fencing At Walkmill Woodland
Old Fencing At Walkmill Woodland
Walkmill Woodland
Walkmill Woodland
Walkmill Woodland
Walkmill Woodland
Walkmill Woodland Nature Boardwalk
Walkmill Woodland Nature Boardwalk
Poppy Treading The Boardwalk At Walkmill Woodland
Poppy Treading The Boardwalk At Walkmill Woodland
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement

Prehistoric Cumbria

West Cumbria is littered with prehistoric settlements, barrows, cairns, standing stones, circles and earthworks which are still much the same as they were thousands of years ago.

Around one mile from Monks Bridge is the Tongue How settlement – it is one of the best you will see in Cumbria, and perhaps all of England. Bronze Age activity accounts for the most extensive use of the area, and evidence for it includes some of the largest and best preserved field systems and cairn fields in England, as well as settlement sites, numerous burial monuments, stone circles and other ceremonial remains.

View via Google Earth
  • Because of their rarity in a national context, excellent state of preservation and inter-connections, these prehistoric monuments are identified as nationally important.

The settlement includes the earthworks and buried remains of four prehistoric stone hut circle settlements, associated field systems, funerary cairns, a cairn cemetery and an extensive cairnfield, a Romano-British farmstead, and a medieval shieling and associated lynchets.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
  • During the 1950s one of the funerary cairns was excavated, and was found to contain a stone cist and evidence of a cremation.

The funerary cairns have forms similar to excavated funerary cairns dated to the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age (about 3000-1500 BC) while the unenclosed hut circles are considered by comparison with dated examples from elsewhere in northern England to span a broad period from about 1750-450 BC.

Poppy Taking In The Views At A Tongue How Funerary Cairn
Poppy Taking In The Views At A Funerary Cairn

Two of the prehistoric stone hut circle settlements lie adjacent to each other; the western settlement exhibits a hut circle measuring approximately 13.5m in diameter with walls up to 0.35m high and an entrance on its eastern side. A substantial stone wall connects the hut circle to a sub-circular stock enclosure to the south east. This has an entrance on its northern side and contains a sunken interior within which are traces of a later three-sided drystone structure of uncertain function. To the north east of this enclosure, and joined by a stone wall, is a circular feature interpreted as a second hut circle. The eastern of these two adjacent stone hut circle settlements consists of a partly excavated and reconstructed hut circle measuring 9.5m in diameter with walls up to 0.75m high together with two associated stock enclosures; an oval one to the west of the hut circle and an irregularly-shaped one to the north.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement

On the hillslope to the south, west and east of these hut circle settlements lies an associated field system defined by a series of parallel stone banks. The fields are generally long and narrow and vary between 27m and 32m in width. The absence of stone clearance cairns in some of the fields and the presence of cairns in other fields suggests different agricultural practices were undertaken here.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement

The third prehistoric stone hut circle settlement lies approximately 400m WSW of the two adjacent hut circle settlements. It consists of a hut circle measuring approximately 9.5m in diameter with walls up to 0.5m high and an entrance on the western side. To the north lies an oval stock enclosure which is connected to the hut circle by a stone wall.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement

Approximately 350m east of the two adjacent stone hut circle settlements is a complex unenclosed stone hut circle settlement consisting of two hut circles and five artificially levelled terraces upon which huts are considered to have been constructed. Associated with this group of dwellings are the remains of at least five enclosures, some of which would have been used for stock control whilst others display evidence of soil slippage, suggesting they were used for cultivation.

The prehistoric remains on Tongue How reflect either sporadic or transient occupation over a long period. The funerary cairns have forms similar to excavated funerary cairns dated to the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age (about 3000-1500 BC) while the unenclosed hut circles are considered by comparison with dated examples from elsewhere in northern England to span a broad period from about 1750-450 BC. Sporadic occupation at Tongue How is then attested by the Romano-British farmstead and the medieval shieling and its associated lynchets.

Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
Tongue How, Bronze Age Settlement
River Calder

Calderbridge Riverside Walk

‘ve been for a walk alongside the River Calder, at Calderbridge in West Cumbria. It has been a really pleasant spring day, which helped make the visit most enjoyable. The walk culminated in a visit to the historic Calder Abbey.

This was a short walk, beginning and ending at St Bridget’s Church, in Calderbridge. The church was built between 1840 and 1842 to a design by the Lancaster architect Edmund Sharpe. It was paid for by a Thomas Irwin of Calder Abbey.

To access the riverside, pass through an iron gate, located to the left of the church, and follow the well established path.

  • The River Calder rises at Lankrigg Moss and flows southwards for 10 miles (16 km) through an ancient landscape, flowing under Monks Bridge (a packhorse bridge) and by the site of Calder Abbey. It also runs past and (indirectly) gives its name to Calder Hall, site of the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor.
Riverside Walk
Riverside Walk
Fungus
Fungus
River Calder
River Calder
Crocus
Crocus
Poppy Sitting Among Snowdrops
Poppy Sitting Among Snowdrops
Longlands Lake

Week In Focus #13

This is picture #13 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. Today’s photo was taken on a walk to Longlands Lake in West Cumbria. For this image, I used a long exposure ‘silky water’ setting on my mobile phone to achieve the glassy effect.

Longlands Lake
Longlands Lake

Bonus Images

After my walk around Longlands, I headed a short distance along the coast to coast hiking route. It was perfect weather for a walk – no wind, and crisp winter temperatures.

  • The coast to coast route begins at St Bees in Cumbria, on the Irish Sea. It crosses the West Cumbrian coastal plain and the Lake District, and enters North Yorkshire as it crosses the Pennines. It then crosses the Yorkshire Dales, the Vale of York and the North York Moors to reach the North Sea coast at Robin Hood’s Bay. The route is 192 miles long.
Coast to Coast Route, Towards Dent Fell
Coast to Coast Route, Towards Dent Fell
Coast to Coast Route, Towards Dent Fell
Coast to Coast Route, Towards Dent Fell
Longlands Lake

Longlands Lake

A ten minute walk away from my home is the tranquil Longlands Lake – the lake was previously known as Brokenlands. The wildlife sanctuary has a variety of habitats, which include: broadleaf woodland, unimproved grassland and aquatic vegetation. The lake is important for its bird population and breeding species include mute swan, coot, moorhen, goosander, tufted duck and mallard.

A circular walk around the former mining site provides safe and enjoyable access all year round for walkers, wheelchair users and those with pushchairs and young children. The surface material is finely crushed local quarry stone which provides a hardwearing, compact surface.

Longlands Lake is on the site of the former Longlands iron ore mine, which first produced ore from four pits between 1879 and 1904. After the mine was abandoned in 1924 the galleries flooded, the ground sank, and became flooded, making the lake. You can still see some of the foundations of the old iron-ore buildings scattered around the lake to this day.

There is a parking area near the lake, picnic areas, a path which goes round the lake, and a seperate path which goes to the remains of the old forge, then on to Dent Fell.

The lake is managed by Wath Brow and Ennerdale Angling Association who stock the lake regularly with rainbow trout. A wheelchair accessible platform has been constructed while elsewhere around the lake a number casting platforms have been built.

Longlands Lake
Longlands Lake

Boggy, Foggy & Soggy

Following an enjoyable Christmas period, I decided it was time to head up a local mountain and try to reverse some of the damage caused by eating cake, chocolate, ice cream, and everything else that is bad for me.

The walk up nearby Dent Fell was quite delightful, despite the poor weather conditions – it was wet; fog was rolling in off the sea; and the ground was extremely boggy. Poppy appeared to enjoy it too, despite requiring a bath when we got home…

Poppy Jumping Into A Bog

Dent Fell is right on my doorstep, and despite its close proximity I only visit the summit a couple of times a year. I really should pop up there more often. On a clear day, the views are fabulous. It really is worth a small effort.

  • Dent is a small fell on the fringe of the English Lake District near the towns of Cleator Moor and Egremont. Sometimes known as Long Barrow, it is traditionally the first fell encountered by hikers following Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk.
  • The word ‘Fell’ is derived from Old Norse (fjall), meaning mountains rising above the tree line.
Nannycatch View
Nannycatch View
Nosey Sheep
Nosey Sheep
Foggy View
Foggy View
Dent Fell Cairn
Dent Fell Cairn
Coast View
Coast View
Fir Needles
Fir Needles
Felled Trees Laying In A Stream
Poppy Leading The Way Back Down Off The Fell
Poppy Leading The Way Back Down Off The Fell