I am barely conscious before my first cup of tea at the best of times but on a recent camping trip to the Lake District I had to wake up pretty fast. Anthony was still slumbering while I brewed our cuppa. Deciding to warm up some breakfast rolls I pulled out the pots and pans that live inside our campervan’s oven and lit the gas to warm it up. I’m sure we’re not alone with this dual use of our campervan oven, it is both storage space and cooking apparatus.
Sitting enjoying my brew a few minutes later my comatose brain registered a burning smell. Getting up and opening the oven I was horrified to see actual flames! As I turned off the oven and the gas, I realised I must have left the cloth we use to silence appliance-related rattles inside the oven when I had lit it. With flames still curling around the cloth I had to take action and fortunately adrenalin kicked in, over-riding the need for caffeine.
We have a fire extinguisher in our ‘van, but I realised that squirting this into the oven, although effective, would also be messy. We also carry an old but serviceable fire blanket that was discarded by a previous employer as being out of date. Guessing this would be more effective for the small fire I had before me I tried to grab the fire blanket from its hook between the kitchen unit and the van’s back door. Annoyingly it was stuck and I had to grab the ‘van keys and open the back door to free it, a commotion that abruptly woke my sleeping partner [interestingly the burning smell hadn’t woken him]. Trying to stay calm, I pulled the blanket out of its packing, not something I had ever done before, and stuffed it inside the oven, smothering the flames.
After waiting a minute or two and with no sign of further flames, I used the fire blanket to carefully remove the still smouldering cloth and I rolled it up into the fire blanket. We put the bundle outside on our gravel pitch, well enough away from ours or anyone else’s ‘van. Recovering from the shock with another mug of tea, we discussed where else we could store the fire blanket so that it is more easily accessible should there ever be a next time.
The simple fire blanket stopped a stupid mistake becoming a disaster, although our Blue Bus reeked of the burning fires of hell for a few days.
If you are wondering, you may have read a shorter version of this escapade in a recent MMM.
For over a decade, visiting the incredible Manchester Christmas Market has been an autumnal household tradition. Before we lived in Greater Manchester we would take the train into Manchester for a special day out. Once we lived in Salford, we would walk across the Irwell and potter around the market a number of times, usually starting with the opening day. The Christmas Market was always my number one choice to meet friends and soak up some festive atmosphere.
A mug of gluhwein isn’t cheap, so we will save some money this year but I will miss standing in the cold, people milling around me, my gloved hands wrapped around a mug of steaming hot gluhwein. The warming spicy wine is something that tastes best drunk outside surrounded by Christmas, it just doesn’t taste the same drunk at home. Part of the fun of drinking my gluhwein is having Rudolph, the festive singing reindeer, belting out Christmas songs above my head and Manchester’s Gothic town hall looking magnificent across the square.
On a weekday morning I would be one of the first visitors to the Christmas Market, taking the chance to browse the stalls and maybe even buy something. But mostly Manchester’s Christmas Market is about the food and drink. For a mid-morning snack I might buy a bag of warm, spicy nuts to nibble before finding a seat and treating myself to an alcoholic hot chocolate from the French stall on charming King Street. It is the next best thing to being in Paris.
In the afternoons, before the after-work rush, we will arrange to meet friends for gluhwein. After years of research I have found that the gluhwein varies across the many stalls and our favourite has become the drink from what we call the Rudolph stall. This stall always has prime position in Albert Square, provides malted milk biscuits to soak up your gluhwein and has the singing reindeer head above the counter. Their gluhwein isn’t too sweet and sickly, it tastes of alcohol and provides the much-anticipated inner glow. While I am happy with straight gluhwein, my partner likes to add rum to his gluhwein for that extra kick!
Before all the building work began we would often meet friends in the Alpine hut complex on Brazennose Street, for some reason always a quiet corner of the market even in the evenings. The crowds flock to Albert Square for the lights and conviviality and by contrast, Brazennose Street always had seats and even shelter, useful if rain was threatening. It was also quiet enough to facilitate talking without shouting. Unfortunately, this cosy spot served gluhwein so sweet it was like sipping hot Vimto, rather than anything alcoholic. This always fooled my brain into thinking it was harmless and I would find myself getting up for more refills than I should!
As the evening progressed all that gluhwein would make me hungry and I would head for the Bavarian käsespätzle stall in Albert Square. The glum owner was never happy to be in Manchester; while we waited for a new batch of käsespätzle to be cooked he would often complain about the high cost of his stall, the poor facilities and how much he missed home. He returned year after year so the trip must have made financial sense and eating a plateful of his delicious German version of macaroni cheese transported me right back to Germany where this dish is often the only vegetarian option on a menu.
It has been decided to cancel the Christmas Market in Manchester this year due to coronavirus. Certainly social distancing is all but impossible on a busy evening on the market. It is just another part of my life and year that has been taken away and I will really miss it. I will just have to keep watching and re-watching the beautiful Lego version in the video below.
In 1985 we were both young, married and still child-free but didn’t own a campervan. We did have a small tent and in that spring we carried it across Scotland from coast to coast on what was then called The Great Outdoors Ultimate Challenge, run by The Great Outdoors magazine and sponsored by Ultimate, who made lightweight tents. Just being able to be a part of this hiking expedition was tough, never mind the days of backpacking across remote Scottish glens and mountains. Our application for the Ultimate Challenge had to demonstrate our ability to backpack day after day, map read and survive in Scotland’s rugged terrain and in those days only 250 lucky participants were chosen. Once through the selection we had to submit a plan [by post] of our self-supported route for comments,. Although everyone finishes their challenge in Montrose, the west coast starting points vary and each route is unique.
The Great Outdoors established a self-supported Scottish coast-to-coast hike in 1980 and it is still going strong, although for obvious reasons 2020 didn’t happen. The walk is non-competitive, there are no prizes for reaching Montrose first and today people write blogs about their trips. The Great Outdoors Challenge writes, ‘Up to 2019, a total of 10013 crossing have been attempted with 8851 being completed – a remarkable achievement for a remarkable event.’ Mine is one of those 8,851 crossings.
An important part of our training and preparation for the challenge was eating Mars bars! In 1985 Mars had a promotion and eating enough gave us a discount on the National Express buses to and from Scotland. We left our Midlands home at 07.00 on a May morning with full rucksacks and full of excited anticipation after six months of planning. We arrived at our starting point of Oban on Scotland’s west coast in evening sunshine after an arduous journey of over twelve hours. On the coaches we were entertained by drivers, new to the route, who didn’t know the location of the bus station in the string of Yorkshire towns they stopped at! Without SatNav or online maps, they would look for road signs and even pull up and ask pedestrians the way.
Over the next memorable twelve days we carried our small Vango Mark Two tent, cooking equipment, food, clothing, camera, books and maps [my reading was Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles] from Oban across the notorious Rannoch Moor and through the Cairngorms to the east coast, sometimes in temperatures over 20C and sometimes in persistent rain. When we reached Montrose we were both grubbier, leaner and fitter.
Our recent trip to Montrose, Glen Clova and Glen Callater bought back heaps of memories of that unforgettable adventure. These memories flooded in as we parked near the Glen Clova Hotel and took the now well-made path up to Loch Brandy, a stunning example of a mountain corrie. Following the footsteps of our younger selves, we climbed up the indistinct path around the crags of the corrie to Green Hill. In 1985 we continued across these heathery bumps to Glen Esk, walking in thick low cloud and following a compass bearing between hummocks and lochans. I remember how ecstatic and relieved we were when we realised our navigation had been spot on and we reached the track at the Shieling of Saughs.
From the mountains we drove the Blue Bus to the wide sweep of Montrose beach to evoke more memories. On this recent trip we were lucky and delighted to see a group of dolphins leaping out of the waves as we walked along the shoreline. Continuing along the beach I wondered what had happened to some of the people we had met on our Ultimate Challenge. The UC was a journey full of camaraderie as well as tough walking and it appears this is still an important aspect of the event. With no mobile phones in 1985 we were encouraged to ring HQ in Montrose from telephone boxes whenever we had the chance so that they knew we and others we had met were alive and well. My journal for the trip is full of the people we spoke to, the joy of sharing an amazing experience and a hint of awe for the experienced participants. On our last night in Montrose we partied in the Park Hotel until the small hours; an evening packed full of laughter and walker’s tales, all the pain of blisters, soggy wet clothing and deep weary agony forgotten.
On this year’s autumn trip, after some splendid coastal walking near Stonehaven, we left the sea for Deeside and had a fantastic day crammed with a medley of weather as we hiked up the popular Morven [871 m] on the eastern edges of the Cairngorms. October hit us with sleet, hail, sunshine and rainbows but we were blessed with a view from the summit to Lochnagar and Mount Keen. An unexpected surprise was a specially designed box in the summit shelter that holds a book and pen for walkers to write in and even postcards of the hill to purchase!
In 1985, after seven days walking we were at Blair Atholl and could stock up in the village shop. Our walk from there up the remote and attractive Glen Tilt is a privilege I will never forget. After the Falls of Tarf we planned to cross a stream but following heavy rain the gushing torrent was too fast to paddle across and too wide to jump. One of the marvelous things about backpacking, as with a campervan, is that you are carrying everything you need with you and can be flexible. After much deliberation we decided to camp overnight where we were on the grassy spot by the burn and the next day detour to Braemar. The morning dawned wild and wet and we struggled through miles of thick damp heather that hid ankle-bashing rocks to reach the six miles of tarmac to Braemar. A welcoming B&B owner whisked away our wet gear to dry it out and fortified us with much needed tea and cake and that evening we ate salad and chips [the only vegetarian option in these unenlightened times] for £1 each in the Fife Arms.
From Braemar we had another memorable day of walking along the historic Jock’s Road through Glen Callater; a route that played an important role in the rights of way walkers in Scotland have. After the good track the path became steeper and boggier at the end of the glen, taking us up to the featureless plateau before the lovely descent to Glen Doll and onto Glen Clova. Jock’s Road funnels many Ultimate Challengers from their varied starting points onto the same path as they get nearer to Montrose. My diary notes how sociable the walking was throughout that day, including meeting Bob Dawes one of five people to complete all of the first ten challenges.
We were once again in a reminiscing mood as we drove from Braemar to the car park at Auchallater. From here we travelled alongside our youthful bootsteps on the track up Glen Callater but this time turning off onto Carn nan Gabhar [834 m], a fairly easy Corbett between Glen Callater and the A93. The weather was kind to us, the autumn colours were stunning and we stayed cloud-free, although the higher mountains all had their tops in the murk. We saw red deer but most thrilling were the couple of mountain hares we spotted near the summit as we descended towards Callater Loch Lodge.
The welcome in Scotland is still a warm one, the scenery is still breathtaking and the weather still unpredictable. But many other things have changed in Scotland since 1985. In 2020 you’ll pay a bit more than the £1.20 [equivalent to about £3.60 today] it cost us to pitch our small tent at Tummel Bridge or even the £2.50 [equivalent to about £7.63] we paid at what is now called Blair Castle Caravan Park [although I notice it is only £12 for two backpackers in low season]. Thankfully, nowadays vegetarian backpackers don’t have to survive on a plateful of vegetables and you can feel fairly confident you will be able to enjoy a good vegetarian meal in most Scottish hotels and restaurants.
All the photographs I have added to this blog post are from our 1985 Ultimate Challenge. You can see we both had more hair in those days, we were still wearing walking breeches and check shirts but my cagoule did contain some Gore-Tex.
During our 2020 campervan trip we stayed at a mixture of remote wild camping spots and Caravan and Motorhome Club sites [Forfar, Stonehaven and Banchory].
An adult-only campsite on a regular bus route to Cheltenham and Gloucester is a great place for a couple wanting an urban break full of historical interest, entertainment and stunning places to eat. Briarfields is on the edge of Cheltenham and is open all year round so, like us, you can visit out of season. The site is enclosed by trees and has good-sized pitches and clean facilities. With buses from the entrance, the background road noise is a small price to pay for the convenience of being able to easily visit the historic town of Cheltenham and the city of Gloucester.
You get off the bus in Cheltenham near to the brilliant white Regency buildings of The Royal Crescent. I had a copy of David Elder’s Cheltenham Heritage Walks guide book with me and we set off on some of the nine themed walks in this book.
If it is a fine day then the perfect thing to do in Cheltenham is to walk to some of its parks and gardens. A highlight of your tour will be Pittville Park, about 15 minutes walk from the town centre that gives you chance to admire the large Regency houses and green squares you will pass on the way. With a duck pond, a boating lake, a playground and cafe and on the hill the stately Pump Rooms, Pittville is an lovely park. The elegant columned Pump Rooms has a domed roof and inside there is a tap where you can still sample Cheltenham’s water.
It isn’t my favourite thing to do, unless I actually need something, but even I can recognise that Cheltenham has a great shopping centre. Whether you are like me and don’t get beyond window shopping or do the real thing it is worth keeping an eye out for some of the statues among the shops and follow Cheltenham’s story through its art. The Minotaur and The Hare [in the photo at the top] is easy to find but look carefully and you might spot some of the small pigeon statues too. These remember the role of this humble bird in Cheltenham’s history when a local farmer spotted pigeons pecking at salt deposits at the mineral spring on his land. In the Regent Arcade you will want to check the time and watch The Wishing Fish Clock on the hour or half hour. This colourful and fun tall clock with a goose, golden eggs and other animals, has a fish hanging below the clock that blows bubbles to the tune, ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles.’ The Imperial Gardens near to the centre are where you will find the statue to Gustav Holst and Cheltenham also has a museum to this composer who was born in the town.
Walking further, on the edge of the town we found Sandford Park. This has none of the grandeur of Pittville Park but offers a respite from the bustle of the town and has a pretty stream running through it and more statues.
We visited The Wilson to find out more about Edward Wilson, the local polar explorer and artist who took part in two Antarctic expeditions with Scott. Wilson, Scott and Henry Robertson Bowers died in a blizzard around 29 March 1912 still 148 miles from their base camp and just eleven miles from a food stash. As well as the room to Edward Wilson the gallery has paintings, and some stunning and elegant arts and crafts furniture that I would certainly buy if I had lots of money.
Taking the bus in the opposite direction our first stop in Gloucester was the Cathedral and this is surely a must-do for anyone in the city. We took one of the tours the cathedral offers and found it was a great way to get much more out of our visit and understand the layers of history in this beautiful building. As well as Edward II’s tomb, you will gaze in awe at the medieval east window that is the size of a tennis court and enjoy the elegant cloisters that are popular film and TV locations. If these tours are running when you are there I would recommend you join in. Afterwards we climbed the steps to the Tribune Gallery to get a whole new perspective on the building.
Walking to Gloucester Docks we had coffee and croissants in an Italian cafe where the chocolate croissant came not just with a chocolate filling but also a chocolate topping. Outside a group of Vespa owners were congregating by the water and comparing their scooters. With the sun shining we could have been in Italy!
The Victorian warehouses at Gloucester Docks have been restored and this is a watery area of cafes and restaurants that is so pleasant to walk around. The National Waterways Museum is inside one of the huge warehouses on the Docks. Each floor has low ceilings and small windows and was designed to store cargoes that arrived here along the canal from Avonmouth and the River Severn. The oral history exhibits bring to life the hard work in all weathers of the workers on the barges.
The Jet Age Museum
Also accessible by bus from Briarfields, the Jet Age Museum has a mostly indoor collection of Gloster Aviation Company (GAC) planes, apparently the company changed its name from Gloucester as anyone outside England struggled to pronounce it! GAC built the Meteor, the RAFs first jet that saw service in the Second World War. GAC started life in Cheltenham and worked with Frank Whittle to build The Meteor, testing it in 1941 and flying with the RAF by 1943.
The museum is run by enthusiastic volunteers and is packed with information. You can concentrate on the planes or dig deeper into a particular aspect of aviation. Visitors can have a bit of a hands-on adventure climbing two ladders in and out of the cockpit of a Vulcan bomber, a cramped and stuffy place that isn’t for the claustrophobic. The five of us each had a crew member’s seat and our guide described what each of us would have been responsible for on a flight. Easier to get into and more comfortable was the BAE Trident, the first passenger aircraft with an automatic landing system, built by a local firm. There are smaller simulators for children too.
If you want to read more my travel article about this area that was published in MMM in November 2020 can be found in the list of MMM published articles.
Many of us want somewhere to take our campervan that is away from the crowds, has plenty of footpaths, lovely views and a few attractions. If this is what you are looking for then the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the north Lancashire south Cumbria border is a great choice. This small area bounded by the stunning Morecambe Bay and the River Kent has been a favourite destination of ours for the last 30-plus years. When we lived in Preston and were enjoying a car-free existence it was a lovely area that was accessible by train for walks. Once we had a campervan it became a go-to destination for a few days away on our own and with friends. Although only a small area it is packed with variety.
The area’s big draw for wildlife lovers is the RSPB’s reserve at Leighton Moss but there are also historic and heritage attractions and some marvellous and varied walking. Where else can you be pottering along a craggy coast in the morning and after lunch be sauntering through pretty woodland or following the shores of a small lake to a limestone pavement? This is truly a diverse landscape, with so much to offer.
I have lost count of the number of holidays we have had in this area, in good and bad weather but I always return home loving it more. If you’ve never been to Arnside and Silverdale think about planning a few days or even a week or so in this wonderful area.
Here are some ideas to help you make the most of a camping trip to this area:
Most recently we stayed at Hawes Villa Camping, a small reasonably priced site with some basic facilities and great walking right from the step of your campervan with Hawes Water just ten minutes away.
If you want a site with full facilities then the more expensive Holgates Silverdale site might suit you. The large site has a pool, bar/restaurant, shop and play area. It is also in a beautiful position on the edge of the village. Holgates Hollins Farm site is nearer to Arnside Crag and is quieter but still has an excellent sanitary block.
We have walked by Gibraltar Farm campsite many times but never camped here. I do know it has plenty of fans and as it sells its own ice-cream I will get there soon!
You can find a few quiet wild camping spots too.
Walking is the best way to get to know this area
To get the most out of walks an OS map or the Cicerone walking guide are both helpful.
The Fairy Steps – You can walk to this limestone escarpment either from Arnside or from Hawes Villa Camping. Climbing up the path through the woodland from Hazelslack you will come to a limestone escarpment that at first glance is impregnable. Look carefully and you will find a narrow gash through the limestone and a series of steps to the top. Popping out onto a grassy ledge you have a splendid view over to the Kent estuary. As you squeeze up the gash in the steps you can try and climb without touching the sides so that the fairies will grant you a wish. Good luck with that!
Arnside Knott – Arnside nestles on the slopes of Arnside Knott, a limestone hill with tree-covered slopes that reveals stunning views over the Kent Estuary and Morecambe Bay. It is a straightforward but steep walk, either from Arnside or from either of the Holgates campsites.
The coast – There are footpaths around pretty much all of the coast here. Highlights include the old tall chimney at Jenny Brown’s Point and the lime kiln near to Gibraltar Farm campsite, the pretty and sheltered cove at Silverdale, the stunning mixture of craggy coast, bays and woodland around Arnside Knott and the dyke and salt marshes from Arnside to Storth.
Eaves Wood – Meander through this lovely wood and climb to the viewpoint where you will find the Pepperpot, a monument built to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Silverdale Holgates campsite is on the edge of Eaves Wood and the paths can be easily accessed from the site.
Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve and limestone pavement – From Hawes Villa Camping walk by Hawes Water and you come to Gait Barrow, an expanse of grey limestone pavement cut with grykes and dotted with low-growing trees. No dogs are allowed on the pavement.
Dallam Tower Deer Park and Beetham – A longer walk from Hawes Villa Camping could take you to the pretty village of Beetham. The path from Heron Mill at Beetham takes you uphill over pasture. As you walk look out for the herd of fallow deer that are kept here. Walking down the hill, with the stately Georgian Dallam Tower on your left, you reach a pretty section of the River Bela before it runs into the Kent. Cross the river and you will be in Milnthorpe.
Things to see and do
RSPB Leighton Moss – Open all year, the expansive reed bed is home to a wide range of wildlife; as well as fantastic wildfowl and marsh harriers there are otters and red deer. There are trails to walk, hides and amazing views from the Sky Tower.
Leighton Hall – Open limited days from the beginning of May to the end of September, this historic house has links with the Gillow furniture makers.
Heron Mill, Beetham – This restored and working corn mill in normal times [BC] is open Wednesday to Sunday for most of the year. There are tours when you can see the waterwheel working.
The train from Arnside or Silverdale to Grange-over-Sands – On the railway line from Arnside you cross the 505 m long viaduct over the River Kent. Grange-over-Sands has a lovely railway station, a pleasant park and a selection of good cafes and interesting shops.
Carnforth – The black and white film, Brief Encounter was filmed in Carnforth. Take the train or drive to Carnforth Station Heritage Centre and The Brief Encounter tea room. Afterwards spend some time browsing the rambling bookshop across the road; I have never walked out of this wonderful shop without at least one great book.
Warton Old Rectory – This ruined 14th century house is in the pleasant village of Warton and is free to explore. Afterwards visit the church and find out why this small village has links to George Washington, the US President. From the village you can also walk over Warton Crag.
An Arnside teashop – Everyone has their favourites; the Old Bakehouse is justifiably popular, Posh Sardine is recommended, there is a chip shop and on a sunny day you can enjoy a pint with a view at The Albion.
A cross bay walk – Check out the Guide Over the Sands events page for dates of the planned cross bay walks. In the summer this is an exceptional way to enjoy the beauty of Morecambe Bay. Led across the sands and mudflats by the Queen’s Official Guide, the walk is about eight miles, takes three to four hours and will involve wading through water that is at least knee deep. During the coronavirus pandemic these guided walks have been cancelled but they will hopefully return in the future.
During coronavirus [what I am referring to as DC] and once we were able to travel to places other than the supermarket, we have sought out some of the quieter areas of the Lake District, as these are easily accessible from our home for the day. Until it was taken away from me I hadn’t realised just how important being able to get away camping and hiking was to my wellbeing. While working friends still had a pattern to their week that wasn’t dissimilar to that BC [Before coronavirus], without the commute, I lost the month we planned in Scotland and the two months travelling around Hungary and Germany, walking around Morecambe, while enjoyable, couldn’t replace these activities. When we were allowed out for the day I was out like a wild animal from a cage.
The hills to the west of Thirlmere, a reservoir between Grasmere and Keswick, are notorious for being boggy and are not everyone’s first choice of mountain. The dry DC spring, open car parks and our search for social distance made these perfect places to walk. We never had the hills completely to ourselves but it was easy to keep our distance from the one or two people we met.
Harrop Tarn, Castle Crag and Ullscarf
The short walk up to Harrop Tarn from the Dob Gill car park on the narrow road along the west side of Thirlmere is worth doing for its own sake. This picturesque tarn, surrounded by crags and pine trees, has an Alpine feel about it that will make you want to sit and enjoy. Of course, we were here so that my partner could tick off some Wainwright fells so after a brief stop we carried on uphill. On the way to Castle Crag we had stunning views along the length of Thirlmere and we then wandered between small lumps of land trying to work out which was the highest and therefore the summit of Castle Crag. At least the dry spring meant that we could easily cross the ground which is often sodden. Ullscarf is also only a pimple of a hill but it is a great viewpoint on a clear day; we could see most of the central fells in a panorama before us. We returned by the lovely Harrop Tarn again and down a steep woodland path to the car park.
Armboth Fell, High Tove and Raven Crag
The road along the west side of Thirlmere is narrow and although quiet you will meet other cars. We decided not to drive to the Armboth car park in our campervan and instead parked below Raven Crag at the northern end of Thirlmere and walked along the road. From Armboth car park we took a rough path through the woods and by the stream, picking up a track. Hidden among the trees near the track is Armboth Hall’s charming summerhouse, now a bothy. The construction of the dam at Thirlmere to provide water to Manchester meant the flooding of two villages, Wythburn and Armboth and Armboth Hall is now under water.
Once on the open fell it was an easy walk up to the rocky outcrop of Armboth Fell, skirting around the wetter areas that had reappeared after recent rain. At High Tove we once again had 360 degree views of surrounding fells. You could decide two are sufficient summits for the day and head back down to the car park but we opted to carry on to Raven Crag and headed for the treeline. We skirted around the area marked on the OS map as The Pewits, notorious as a boggy section of the Lake District fells and followed the ups and downs of the conifer plantation until we picked up a path into the trees to Raven Crag. Confusingly there is also another Castle Crag here. The path up to the viewpoint on Raven Crag is in good condition with steps and work is being carried out on the steep path down to Thirlmere.
You might have been avoiding these hills to the west of Thirlmere as they certainly don’t look exciting on the map but these central hills have panoramic views and give the few walkers who head there a special sense of isolation.
If I have learnt anything in DC it is that just being out hiking in the fells can never be taken for granted in the future and that every hill has something to offer and appreciate.
Will life become divided into BC [Before coronavirus} and AC [After coronavirus]? And I think I need a category DC (During coronavirus] as this pandemic is likely to be with us for a year or two. Looking back on camping trips we made before lock down they have a happy-go-lucky almost dreamlike quality that I don’t see returning for some time. We took stopping at a cafe, visiting a museum and, of course, camping, not exactly for granted but certainly something we had the freedom to do when we wanted. All this changed in the UK on 23 March 2020 and although things have begun to re-open, as I spend DC standing on a 2 metre line to queue and video calling friends I can’t say the experience is like it was in BC.
Our last BC camping trip was to Torridon in Scotland. We set off in March expecting to be touring this wonderful country for a month and hiking through some of its glorious countryside. Even though our trip was cut short by the virus, we had a wonderful few days before we had to return all the way home.
We have stayed in Torridon, on the west coast of Scotland, before but the last time we were there together on a walking holiday the UK was at war with Argentina over the Falklands Islands. We were looking forward to a much delayed revisit.
Walks from Kinlochewe
You couldn’t ask for better weather the day we followed the tracks and paths around Loch Clair and Loch Coulin. With blue sky and snow still lying on the mountains, the views over the lochs to the distinctive peaks of Liathach and Beinn Eighe took my breath away. The walk is mostly flat and easy to follow for 9 km / 5.5 miles. More details on the Walk Highlands website.
From the Kinlochewe campsite we walked to Loch Maree and along Gleann Bianasdail. This is the approach to Slioch, the craggy high mountain by the loch, but on a cloudy day we stayed low, walking about 16 km / 10 miles. The walk along the river to the loch is a pleasant and easy 10 km return and takes you by the old cemetery and through beautiful gnarled trees covered in lichen. The footbridge over the roaring waterfall might be where some would turn back but we continued up Gleann Bianasdail. Keep a look out for the wild goats that scamper up the steep hillsides here and are delightful to see, we also spotted some red deer. The views back to Loch Maree as you climb higher are worth the longer walk and the river gorge has some vibrant green Scots pine trees huddled along its banks.
Walking there and back the same way when the views are so varied and awe-inspiring is no hardship and I have no hesitation in recommending the 13 km / 8 mile return trip to Loch Grobaig, a tiny loch in the trough between the mountains of Liathach and Beinn Eighe. Starting at the small car park above Torridon House, the path follows the river, through woodland that soon opens out to moorland and a stony and occasionally boggy path. Beinn Alligin looms to your left, the snowy slopes of Beinn Eighe pop up ahead and to your right are the steep slopes and crenellated ridge of Liathach. Following the river, a dipper bobbed along the rushing water between the rocks. As we gained height we looked back for the views of Upper Loch Torridon. We had Loch Grobaig to ourselves and as we ate our lunch I felt embraced by isolation and magnificence.
In the evening sunshine we stopped to recreate photographs we had taken all those years ago at the viewpoint above Upper Loch Torridon. Our trip was cut short but the memories remain. As I type we can’t return to Scotland yet but we hope it will be sooner than 30+ years [maybe even DC] when we are back there again.
We stayed at two campsites
Ardtower Caravan Park is a top-notch independent campsite with views over the Moray Firth from the higher hard-standing pitches. We have stayed a couple of times and the owners are always friendly and welcoming.
Kinlochewe Caravan and Motorhome Club Site is a beautifully positioned site at the foot of Beinn Eighe and in the small village. At night the skies are dark and during the daytime the views and local walking are amazing.
Under lock down we have stayed at home, getting out most days to walk or cycle the paths, streets and tracks we can reach from our humble Morecambe abode. One of the positive things about this dreadful period of isolation has been the chance to explore what is available from our doorstep and we have found diverse and beautiful areas in this marvellous corner of Lancashire.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live in Morecambe, I hope these walking and cycling ideas will whet your appetite to visit Morecambe when you can.
Morecambe’s Magnificent Promenade
I have to start with Morecambe’s Promenade. The views across Morecambe Bay from the prom are panoramic, with the mountains of the Lake District a tantalising backdrop to the expanse of the tidal sands; it is said it takes the water from 40 Niagara Falls to fill the bay on a spring tide and looking out to the Irish Sea that is easy to believe. Morecambe’s promenade is a mixed-use 8 km (5 mile) flat cycle or walking route with a good surface. This is an accessible place to take your daily exercise and with the wildlife, tides and weather there is always something new to see. From Heysham in the south curving around to Hest Bank in the north-east you are separated from the traffic on the elevated promenade and, depending on the tides, you can also step onto the sandy and pebbly shore for a truly sea-level view. We pretty much always see oystercatchers and hear their familiar piercing calls as they wing along the shore, we might see a curlew or a redshank and black headed or herring gulls. It is usually clear enough to pick out the familiar bumps of the Langdale Fells in the Lake District. In different times we will stop for hot chocolate in a cafe or [for a treat] in the magnificent restored 1930s Midland Hotel. Ice-cream at Bruccianis, another charming remnant of Morecambe’s Art Deco past, is one more pleasure we are missing at the moment, although we have been delighted to see that some of the ice-cream stalls have re-opened.
Seeking out Statues
Looking to add variety to our daily walk and give us a theme to explore, I took us on a tour of some of Morecambe Bay’s statues. Starting at the Midland Hotel and The Stone Jetty you are surrounded by some of the TERN project stone sculptures of elegant coastal birds. Not much further along the Promenade toward Hest Bank, don’t miss the cheery statue to local lad Eric Morecambe. Born John Eric Bartholomew in 1926, he formed a comedy double-act with Ernie Wise and his statue is an outstanding addition to Morecambe’s attractions, it has even recently been adorned with a face mask! Almost everyone has their picture taken in the iconic pose and sings, ‘Bring Me Sunshine!’
Continuing towards Hest Bank, leave the promenade at the side of Morecambe Town Hall and slip through a gateway to find a hidden fading cemetery opened in 1874 and attached to the parish church. You are in what was the old fishing village of Poulton-le-Sands and among the tree-lined graves are two personality-packed fisher-folk sculptures carved from elm trees by Tim Burgess.
Return to the coast and maybe linger and watch the fishing boats before continuing towards Happy Mount Park. At the end of the Promenade sits the colourful and dramatic Venus and Cupid statue, created by a local artist Shane Johnstone in 2005 in memory of his partner. The two multi-coloured mosaic figures for me exquisitely symbolise love, loss and human connections and offers some sense of comfort during a pandemic.
Taking the road to Jo ‘n’ Lees cafe, looking out for oystercatchers that often sit on the rocks near here, walkers can follow the curve of the pebbly coast to Hest Bank. One of the seven metal sculptures of a wader by Ulverston-based artist Chris Bramall is on the grassy area above the beach here, celebrating Morecambe Bay’s importance for wintering birds. You have walked about 4.5 km by now [just under three miles] and you have to walk back but if you’ve got the time and energy it is worth carrying on along the shore or over the fields to Red Bank Farm to see the poignant and brilliant white Praying Shell sculpture that looks over the sands and is a memorial to the 23 cockle pickers [this is the reported number but it is hard to be sure] who died in 2004 after being left to the tides by abusive gang masters. I will always stop here, remember and pay my respects.
Cruising beside the Lancaster Canal
The Lancaster Canal runs 66 km [41 miles] from Preston to Kendal and is a haven for tranquillity and wildlife. We can reach it easily from Folly Lane that runs beside the new road into Morecambe, The Bay Gateway. The canal was built to transport coal from Lancashire and limestone from Cumbria, the Glasson branch giving the opportunity of cargo transfers from the barges to seagoing vessels. We begin on a section of the canal between Lancaster and Hest Bank that flows peacefully through lush fields, with views back to Torrisholme Barrow on the edge of Morecambe; we often have these first few miles to ourselves.
As you reach the outskirts of Hest Bank, gardens spill down to the canal side and views open out across Morecambe Bay to the Lake District fells. On the banks of the canal look out for wild flowers and there are always mallards, coots and swans on the water. In the spring sunshine we usually spot a string of tiny fluffy ducklings following mum.
You can return the same way but we like to make this a circular walk and the options are varied to suit the time we have. Follow The Crescent and Station Road in Hest Bank and you are soon on the path along the shore [see statues walk above] that will take you back to Morecambe [a 12 km / 8 miles round trip from the centre of Morecambe]. We like to carry on to Bolton-le-Sands to enjoy the views and calmness of the canal for as long as possible and head down to the coast via Mill Lane. This route gives us a chance to come by the memorial statue to the cockle pickers [see statues walk] and stroll along the lovely pebbly bay near there and adds about 5.5 km / 3.5 miles, making something like a 17.5 km / 11.5 mile walk.
The coast draws us on our walks and reaching it we can choose to turn either right or left. Up to now the walks have turned to the right, but turning left at the Midland Hotel it is about 5 km / 3 miles mostly along the Promenade to Half Moon Bay at Heysham. This takes you to a different side of Morecambe, away from the bustle of the 20th century resort. Reaching the end of the Promenade at Heysham you will see St Peter’s Church above the bay. Follow the winding village lanes to explore its lovely graveyard and enjoy the views. Take the time to go inside the church and you will find a carved Norse hog-back stone which would originally have been a grave cover. Adjacent to the church is Glebe Gardens, a charming community garden that is a colourful place to linger.
Eventually you will want to climb the steps onto Heysham Barrows and Heysham Head. Here are perched the ruins of St Patrick’s Chapel and the rock cut graves dating back to the 8th century. We like to follow the coast around the hidden sandy cove lined with fragrant yellow gorse bushes and enjoy the views to Arnside Knott before continuing on to Half Moon Bay. Heysham Port, where freight and Isle of Man ferries sail in and out, is now in sight and provides an active scene with the two bulky nuclear powers stations as a backdrop. Construction on Heysham 1 began in 1970 and it came into operation in 1983, followed by Heysham 2. At Half Moon Bay you will find Anna Gillespie’s SHIP, a sculpture that features two men sitting on the bow and stern of a ship looking in opposite directions. The views along the coast are so good that returning the same way is no hardship.
The seaside resort of Morecambe grew in the late 1800s from a collection of villages. A harbour and a railway, linking the coast with Yorkshire, arrived by 1850 and the town expanded to absorb Poulton-le-Sands, Bare and Torrisholme. The name of Morecambe was officially adopted by the town from 1889, after the bay it overlooks. Despite many 1960s housing estates, there are a surprising number of snickets, alleys or ginnels around Morecambe and I enjoy exploring these and the streets of our home town and finding glimpses of the past.
Opposite the handsome 1930s Midland Hotel, built to look like an elegant ocean liner, is The Platform, today an unusual music and theatre venue, this was built in 1907 as a railway station for Morecambe Promenade. Look to your left and you will spot the splendour of Morecambe Winter Gardens, a grand Victorian landmark building in red brick that is currently being renovated.
Follow the entertaining bird-themed walkway alongside The Festival Market, a cornucopia of stalls in pre-lock-down days that I hope will return, and set off along Victoria Street. Keep your eyes peeled above and behind you for murals of fishing boats, motorcycles and celebrities.
Take a left back to the sea front and turn right, passing buildings constructed to entertain and house the abundance of visitors that came to Morecambe in its heyday; you will certainly see signs of cinemas and boarding houses. The 1905 Clock Tower is another landmark and further on the Pier Hotel and the Old Pier Bookshop, a warren of a shop stuffed with second-hand books, both give you a clue as to what once stretched out to sea here. Morecambe’s Pier, like many, suffered from fires and was demolished in 1992.
Take Clarence Street by the bookshop and admire the tall, bay-windowed buildings and look for old fishing cottages, you might decide to check out an alleyway. Make sure you turn back near The Bull to see the large fisherman mural on the gable of one of the houses. Left onto Poulton Road takes you by Queen Victoria Hospital and at the Police Station turn left into Church Street to wander around the Parish Church and through the old cemetery, noting the pretty cobble-stone wall.
Double-back briefly and take the narrow inviting lane opposite the school, crossing Thornton Road onto a snicket called Stuart Avenue that runs between playing fields. Turn right onto Grasmere Road and you will eventually wind your way through tidy bungalows to Bare Lane Railway Station. Although now part of Morecambe, Bare still retains a village feel and on early 20th century maps is clearly shown as a separate village. Even on our 1940s map, Bare is a one-road settlement clearly distinct from the resort.
Cross the railway line, turn left into Fairhope Avenue and right onto Low Lane. You are now well away from the old fishing villages and are walking through a tidy housing estate of mainly bungalows that attract retirees. In this flat landscape you will notice a rise to your left with trees. Turn left down Fulwood Drive and look for the narrow path on your right that will take you onto the hill that is topped with Torrisholme Barrow, a round barrow from 2400-1500 BC. Alternatively, continue along Low Lane and take the snicket into the trees and make your way behind the houses and uphill on informal paths to the barrow. There is a triangulation pillar on the hill but only scant evidence of a barrow. What Torrisholme Barrow has is views that surely make this a perfect spot for burials. Some say this hill was an old moot or meeting hill and at Easter you will often find a cross placed here. On a clear day, as well as seeing your route through Morecambe, you will gaze across the bay to the Lake District and Barrow-in-Furness. Turn around and over the row of hawthorn hedging you will spot the line of the Lancaster Canal and beyond that the bulk of the Bowland Fells. The elaborate and domed Ashton Memorial perched above Lancaster is another local landmark.
Torrisholme is one more village that is now incorporated into Morecambe. The triangular green of Torrisholme Square remains and is surrounded by smart stone houses, some dating back to the 17th century. Head down Torrisholme Barrow to your left and climb over the stile in the corner of the field onto Slyne Road, turning right. Left onto Russell Drive will take you to the main road to Lancaster, turn right and cross the road to take the snicket enigmatically called The Way that cuts behind the houses. Over the main road you will find a road [McDonalds to your right] which leads to a path following parallel with the Bay Gateway for walkers and cyclists. This reaches the old railway line that is now a multi-use route. Turn right towards Morecambe and you are soon back at The Midland Hotel.
This interesting circuit is about 10 km / 6 miles with options to make it shorter if you wish.
Perfect cycling along the River Lune to Caton
You can walk this route but 30 km [almost 20 miles] could be a long day and it is much easier on a bicycle. The lovely traffic-free path is also perfect for cycling. The popular old railway line runs from near Morecambe Railway Station to the historic city of Lancaster (5.4 km / 3.4 miles). In spring you cycle under green birch trees, alongside drainage ditches and eventually reach the banks of the River Lune. Look ahead and you will spot Lancaster Castle on the hilltop and the splendour of the 18th century waterfront below. On the way you pass the cycle route to the fishing village at Sunderland Point (6.8 km / 4.2 miles) where you can stop and watch the wading birds on the tidal marshes.
In Lancaster the old railway line is well signed, continuing along the River Lune for a further 10 km (6.2 miles), although at the moment work on the canal aqueduct means that cyclists and walkers have to follow Caton Road for a short distance. Cycling by the river you get occasional glimpses of the water through the trees. Crossing a road, you might want to detour a short distance to look at Halton Bridge, a narrow bridge built from the remains of Lancaster’s old wrought iron Greyhound Bridge in 1913. At only 6 feet wide, many a vehicle has lost some paint on the bridge’s bollards!
The best views of the River Lune are where the track crosses the river twice at the horse-shoe bend of the Crook O’Lune and pretty much everyone stops to take in the scenery at this much-loved local beauty spot. You can find a grassy spot to picnic here, looking across the picturesque river to distant hills or follow a short circuit of the river bank.
We prefer to carry on to Caton and maybe cycle up the steep hill to Caton Moor to sit below the wind turbines and take in the wide views over Lancashire. Alternatively we might leave the bikes in Caton and add a 13 km / 8 mile walk to our cycle ride. Climbing up the quiet lane to Caton Moor, we will take the lovely track back down the hillside through the gorse bushes and bluebells and along the woodland edge to Claughton. The Claughton Aerial Ropeway crosses high over the track. Built in 1924, the ropeway carries shale from the quarry high on the moor down to the brick works. Cross straight over the A683 in Claugton and leave the track for a footpath that takes you to a particularly picturesque stretch of the River Lune. I could sit here watching the sand martins wheeling over the river for hours. The grassy paths take you back to the cycle route and Caton.
The River Lune to Glasson Dock
From Morecambe take the railway line / cycle track once again to Lancaster [see above]. In Lancaster a tarmac and later gravel track along the quayside and river takes cyclists and walkers to the hamlet of Conder Green and on to Glasson Dock (9.3 km / 8 miles one-way). This is a quiet and peaceful route with occasional views across the river that is nevertheless popular with walkers and cyclists. Today the pleasant village of Glasson has a marina packed with colourful boats, connected to a still busy harbour by a lock. The harbour at Glasson originally opened in 1787 as Lancaster became un-navigable for ships and goods came through Glasson and were distributed via the Lancaster Canal. If you’re lucky the village shop will be open and have some local Wallings ice-cream in stock.
We didn’t know in February that in less than a month the country would be locked down but with the hindsight we now have I am so pleased we got away for a ten-day campervan holiday while coronavirus made its way across the world to the UK. We toured around Wiltshire for most of that time and for five nights stopped at the Camping and Carvanning Club site at Devizes. Our average stay on a campsite is less than two nights, so five nights is a chunk of time for us to settle anywhere but in February open campsites were not easy to find and the Devizes site turned out to be a great base with lots of options.
On the way to Devizes we drove up to the high car park near The White Horse of Westbury. It was a windy day and our walk to see the horse carved out of the chalk, although now covered in concrete, and around Bratton Camp blew away the cobwebs after a long drive. On the northern edge of Salisbury Plain, the views from the 17th century Westbury White Horse stretch for miles.
We walked, took the bus and also drove from the campsite. Here are the places we visited.
Taking the bus from the campsite
Leaving the Blue Bus at the campsite, we used the local buses to visit a couple of attractions.
Opposite The Three Magpies pub, at the entrance to the campsite you can pick up a bus to Devizes. Alternatively, a short walk over the canal bridge and along the quiet lane takes you to Seend. Here you can catch the number 49 bus to Trowbridge in one direction and to Avebury and even Swindon in the other.
Bradford-on-Avon – Taking the 49 to Trowbridge, we picked up a train to Bradford-on-Avon on a day of bright sunshine and showers. Visiting this pretty town sitting on a steep hillside by the River Avon was perhaps the highlight of our time in Wiltshire. With stone buildings that are warm and elegant and charming cobbled streets, Bradford-on-Avon has plenty of old weaver’s cottages from its time as a cloth-making town. Overlooking the Town Bridge, which has an old lock-up perched on it with a weather vane known as the Bradford gudgeon, we found Il Ponte Italian restaurant, a great choice for coffee and lunch.
Away from the town centre we explored the enchanting and strangely proportioned Saxon Church of St Laurence with narrow arched doorways and windows and crossed the river to reach the 14th century Title Barn. With sunlight filtering through the slit windows of this monumental building I gazed up at the impressive timber roof, the stories from the past echoing among the beams.
We climbed steep lanes and steps to the highest buildings in the town that have views across the Avon valley to Salisbury Plain and The White Horse. At the end of one lane, perched on the hillside we found the splendidly situated medieval chapel of St Mary Tory. Tory here means hill [tor] and we looked over the town from what was once a pilgrimage site between Glastonbury and Malmesbury. The chapel was restored in the 19th century and more recently the east window was replaced with modern colourful stained glass.
Avebury – Using the bus in the opposite direction we spent a day walking seven miles around the many Neolithic sites of Avebury. After walking around the huge circular bank and ditch with impressive standing stones, we walked to West Kennet Long Barrow, passing the mystery that is Silbury Hill on the way. This long barrow is my favourite site out of the many at Avebury and on a fine sunny day the views from West Kennet Long Barrow were worth the exertion. A burial site for many individuals, along with pottery, beads and a Neolithic dagger, large sarsen stones hide the entrance to the barrow’s 42-foot-long passage which has two side chambers and another at the end. We returned to Avebury by East Kennett and the Sanctuary, another baffling site that you can be creative imagining what it was used for.
Walking from the campsite
The Kennet and Avon Canal runs alongside the Devizes campsite and an easy and enjoyable walk of about two miles each way will take you to Caen Hill Locks, 29 locks rising 237 feet. It is an exhausting trip for boat owners, taking the best part of a day to travel up or down this row of locks and you are bound to spot one or two as you walk.
Carry on a mile or so more and you reach Devizes. We were there on market day which always adds an extra bustle to a town. We admired the outdoor stalls and then walked through the indoor market which has a wide array of goods from cakes and cards to wooden crafts. Chatting to one stall holder he recommended Times Square for the best coffee in this agreeable town. On market day it seemed that everyone had decided to enjoy a break in this friendly cafe but it is big enough to accommodate everyone and the stall holder was right, it was good coffee.
We visited The Wiltshire Museum to see its exceptional collection from the many ancient sites in the county. If you are confused about the timeline of Wiltshire’s history then this is the place to help you get it straight in your head. If you don’t want to immerse yourself in local history then the tour of the Victorian Wadworth Brewery might be more your glass of ale. After walking back along the canal [or you can take the bus] a visit to the Three Magpies pub next to the campsite for a glass of Wadworth was a great way to round off the day .
Walk in the opposite direction and you reach The Barge Inn after just over a mile.
Days out in our campervan from the campsite
As well as walking and taking the bus, we took our campervan out for a couple of days.
Stonehenge – We last visited Stonehenge in our first campervan in 2006. The stones are the same but the organisation of the site has changed massively since then. Today the visitor’s centre is one mile away from the circle and one of the roads alongside the stones has been closed. We purchased timed tickets in advance and arrived at the large car park [with dedicated motorhome parking] with a comfortable amount of time to visit the exhibition before taking the free shuttle as far as Fargo Plantation. This enabled us to approach Stonehenge across the green pasture land, skylarks singing above us and the stones in the distance. Of course, the scene isn’t as it was in the Neolithic era but it is more peaceful than it was.
In 2006 we paid extra to be able to walk among the stones as the sun set, a truly magical experience. Today, the stones are surrounded by a low fence and with controlled visitor numbers everyone has space to walk around the stones and get an uninterrupted view from different angles and in different light. There is no doubt that Stonehenge is a popular place to visit and given the limitations, English Heritage are doing a good job at enabling everyone to enjoy and understand the structure. For me, Stonehenge remains a special place and I look forward to coming back when the A303 is out of sight.
Marlborough& Savernake Forest – If you want somewhere to stretch your legs, enjoy a spell of window shopping followed by some people watching in a cosy cafe then Marlborough, with the second widest high street in the UK, will fit the bill.
Nearby is Savernake Forest, an expanse of woodland with a network of footpaths, deer and a remarkable collection of ancient oak trees, each with a name. In the mixed woodland, with so many paths, we were soon disorientated and only knew where we were when we stumbled upon the sign for one of these gnarled oak trees. We found The Saddle, The Cathedral and Old Paunch; these trees already have character but knowing their names made me consider the features of each tree and admire the ridged bark and dripping moss.
Lacock Abbey & village – Owned and managed by the National Trust, Lacock Abbey is a 13th century abbey that was converted to a family home in the 16th century. If you recognise the building and the village this is probably because you have seen it on a film or TV programme. Downton Abbey, Cranford, Harry Potter and others have all been filmed here. The car park isn’t huge but it does have some large spaces for motorhomes.
The house has plenty of personal touches that retain an intimacy in the rambling building and there are knowledgeable guides in most room. William Henry Fox Talbot lived here and in 1835 captured the first photographic negative of one of Lacock Abbey’s oriel windows. You can see this image and others in the small museum by the entrance that tells the interesting story of photography.
Devizes Camping and Caravan Club site is an open and green site with friendly and helpful wardens. The facilities would welcome an update but are totally satisfactory.
I realise that none of us can travel anywhere just at the moment due to coronavirus but I hope this post and these ideas might contribute to your planning for future trips while we can only dream. Happy future travels!
It was so quiet I could hear the snow making that spooky creaking noise as I placed each foot carefully. The snow was so deep it came above my knees in places and melted into my walking boots and I had no idea why I hadn’t put my gaiters on. The wind was whipped through my layers of clothing and the hail was hitting my face so hard it hurt. I simultaneously felt totally alive and sure I was about to die of hypothermia!
Only one fine day was forecast for the week between storms Ciara and Dennis. ‘Let’s go to the Lake District for the day,’ I suggested, thinking it would be good to make the most of the fine weather after two weeks of being trapped by DIY. The weather was still expected to be cold and breezy so I pictured us wrapping up for a brisk walk through some attractive sheltered woodland, but I left the planning to my partner. As I have mentioned before, he is trying to walk up all the Wainwright Fells and so after consulting his lists and our maps, parked the Blue Bus near the church at Troutbeck. We weren’t early birds and our favoured car park by Trout Beck was busy even on a week day in February and we had to resort to the lay-by up the road.
He pointed up the valley to a snowy ridge and told me we were here to climb Froswick; it was clearly a hill! There also was not even a hint of sheltered woodland, this was a completely exposed route. Only 720 m high, Froswick is on the ridge between Thornthwaite Crag and Ill Bell, both of which we have climbed. Any sensible person would have included Froswick on a walk up one of these bigger neighbours and hardly even noticed the extra exertion. For some reason Froswick had been missed on all of our trips to the surrounding hills and remained without a tick on the list.
In the valley it was a pleasant enough February day but we set off well wrapped up against the cold we expected as we climbed higher. The ground was sodden after the heavy rain during the first storm and we jumped over becks and sloshed across bogs on the path from Limefitt Park, following Hagg Gill.
The hardy Herdwick sheep were sheltering where they could and the other walkers we met were all climbing The Tongue, the distinctive hill that sticks out into the valley. As we climbed higher the landscape became white and the gusts got stronger, the clouds chasing across the horizon and blue sky just occasionally peeping through. Walking in deep snow is hard work and I was plodding on with my head down, using my walk leader’s footprints to show the way. I was wearing five layers of clothing and yet could still feel the chill of the wind on my skin!
Looking up from the plodding, I could see the clouds were still high and the top of Froswick was in sight. I was beginning to think we would get to the top, although I was tired and cold but common sense kicked in and after a brief huddle over the map we jointly decided it would be most sensible to abandon the hill that day.
Descending in deep snow is lots of fun, and much quicker than going up, but it was still almost four in the afternoon by the time we were back at the ‘van. Although we did have our head torches, walking on wet ground is easier in daylight and it is doubtful whether we would have got to the top and back down before dark. Knowing when to turn back is an important skill for hill walkers.
I have no doubt we will be back to attempt to walk up Froswick on another day, I just hope it is a bit warmer.