Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fox’s Pulpit & Crook Of Lune Bridge From Sedbergh – approx 10.00 miles

Sunday 2nd October 2011

Fox’s Pulpit & Crook Of Lune Bridge From Sedbergh – approx 10.00 miles


Ordnance Survey Explorer OL19 – Howgill Fells & Upper Eden Valley

Route Summary:

Sedbergh – Howgill Lane – New House – Bramaskew – Dales Way (N) – Hole House – Crook Of Lune Bridge – Davy Bank – Hilltop Heights – Fox’s Pulpit – New Field – Lincoln’s Inn Bridge – St Gregory Church – Underwinder – Howgill Lane - Sedbergh


Sedbergh: Pubs, Shops, Cafés, Accommodation, Transport


Overcast all day, with drizzle and rain.


IT’S OFFICIAL! Yesterday was the hottest October day on record, with temperatures reaching as high as 29.9°C down in the South East! So here in the North West, with a wonderful forecast promised for today for the whole country, we pulled back the curtains this morning to reveal blazing sunshi ……

Errr ……. No, actually. Beyond the curtains we were met with a murky morning, thick with mist and drizzle sweeping slowly across the dale. Yesterday may well have felt like high summer, but today was definitely October. Oh well – onwards and upwards, as they say.

Due to an amazingly poor piece of planning on my part – of which the less said, the better – we needed to partake of a little emergency clothes shopping. So, breakfast eaten, we drove over to Kendal thinking we could hit the shops while the weather cleared.

The first part of the plan worked a treat, and a couple of hours later we were parked up in Sedbergh, new clothes in the boot, and boots on ready to go. The second part of the plan was less successful, though – despite what we were promised, it was still raining. Weather forecasting, eh? Little more than divination and soothsaying but with lower accuracy!

Still, having travelled so far for the weekend, we were not going to be put off by a bit of rain. Instead we opted for familiar paths – with no mapwork required making for easier navigation in the wet – and with waterproofs donned we set off along Howgill Lane, skirting the lower flanks of Winder to our right.

After about a mile and a half, we left the lane for the field path towards Bramaskew where we joined the Dales Way. Turning northwards, we passed through Hole House and onwards to meet the riverside. There the rain relented slightly so we took the opportunity to stop for lunch, huddling under a tree to eat our soup.

Moving on, we traced the riverbank for a further mile or so to reach Crook Of Lune Bridge. Here, road, river and rail converge at this pinch point between the hills, with Lowgill Viaduct and the M6 mere yards away.

But still the fells dominate, and we began our climb out of the valley towards the narrow lane that runs the length of Firbank, pausing periodically to catch our breath and to evade a sizeable bull parked slap-bang across the path and giving us the evil eye.

By the time we reached the lane the rain had largely relented. Only the merest hint of drizzle hung in the air as we trundled past Fox’s Pulpit, although low cloud remained to stifle the views. Despite everything, the day remained quite warm – even up on the fell – providing a test of breathability for our waterproofs. Eventually we ditched them in favour of shirtsleeves, this being the better way of staying dry.

From the tiny group of houses marked as New Field on the map, we took the field path towards Bridge End that descends steeply South East through Hawkrigg Wood and crosses a minor road before reaching the main A684. The road is busy, and care is required especially when crossing Lincoln’s Inn Bridge. Soon, though, the tiny church of St. Gregory in Lunedale is reached – notable for it’s unusual stained glass.

Our next objective was Underwinder – another small agglomeration of properties, this time clustered around a cobbled courtyard. Here the path actually passes directly through one of the gardens, slightly odd but all perfectly legal. By now the rain had returned in earnest, and the final steady pull up to Howgill Lane once again tested jacket breathability to the full. Then all that remained was the gentle walk along the lane into Sedbergh.

We have done this walk – or variations on it – many times before, and always find it a good standby. The mix of farmland, riverside and fell provides plenty of variety, and, even on a grotty day, the views along the Lune Valley and over to the Howgills are sure to be inspiring. And it fits nicely into a good half day – just in case you need to do a bit of emergency shopping, too!

Monday, 17 October 2011

A Circuit Of Barbon Low Fell – approx 8.00 miles

Saturday 1st October 2011

A Circuit Of Barbon Low Fell – approx 8.00 miles


Ordnance Survey Explorer OL2 – Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western Areas

Route Summary:

Barbon – Pencil Brow – Barbondale – Blindbeck Bridge – Bullpot Farm – Gale Garth – Brownthwaite Pike – Fell Road – Fellfoot Road – Langthwaite – Fell Garth – Whelprigg – Low Bank House - Barbon


Barbon: Pub, Shop, Accommodation


Sunny and warm at first, hot and hazy later.


We got out of the car, stretching expansively to rid ourselves of the kinks and cricks accumulated during the long drive north. It was still quite early, but here we were – “up north” – on a warm, sunny morning with a nice little walk to look forward to and all day to do it in.

For those who don’t know it, Barbon is a small, neat village situated in the Lune Valley, slightly to the west of the Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary. But although technically outside the National Park, there is no mistaking the quality of the surrounding hills – to the north sits the massive bulk of Middleton Fell with the Howgills beyond, while barely a half dozen miles east lies Whernside, highest of all the summits in the Yorkshire Dales – and Barbondale cuts a dramatic NE/SW slash through the thick of them.

Crossing the cattle grid on the track out of the village, it felt good to be back in this neck of the woods. It’d been far too long since our last visit – some four months, if memory serves me correctly – something that we were keen to rectify. Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t head up here for just a weekend; the time it takes and the cost of fuel being just two of the reasons why not. But we really needed to do this – to walk these beautiful hills again and to catch up with friends – and the promise of a decent forecast had tipped the balance in our favour. Naughty weather!

After a short stretch through parkland, we struck off east on a clear path through the woods with the rushing sound of Barbon Beck down to our right. Despite the recent warm, dry weather here, under the trees, there were still some wet patches to be negotiated.

Exiting the woods, we found ourselves on a track that contoured the lower slopes of steep-sided Middleton Fell. We made our way towards the footbridge that crosses the beck near Blindbeck Bridge before doubling back on ourselves along the road.

After a short distance we picked up a bridle path heading southwards towards Hoggs Hill that followed the stream dividing Barbon Low Fell from Barbon High Fell. The climb was not steep, but the path rose quickly out of the valley and views began to open up all round. Soon the tops of the surrounding fells came within our sight.

Bullpot Farm inhabits a surprisingly remote spot, ringed as it is by high tops – Barbon High Fell, Casterton Fell, Leck Fell, Gragareth, Great Coum and Crag Hill. We gazed longingly at them before turning away – we must save those for another day.

Today our route followed the road in a southwesterly direction, bringing us to a gateway on the right near Gale Garth that opened on to Access Land. A clear track wound along the side of the hill, rising gently to reach a second gate. We have been here in winter when the bottom of this gate is frozen solid into sheet ice – not a worry today.

Beyond this we left the track in favour of a slightly higher route aiming for the minor summit of Brownthwaite Pike, a small protuberance with an elaborate summit cairn and an airy position overlooking the Lune Valley, where we stopped for lunch.

By now, the temperature was soaring. Fortunately a strong, cooling breeze made it more bearable, but we were careful to slap on hats and sunscreen as these were perfect conditions for unexpected sunburn – and this in October! With a fine view over the valley to Kirby Lonsdale and beyond, it was a perfect place for a rest.

Moving on, we rejoined the main track and followed an arrow-straight path to reach Fell Road where we turned downhill. Our way back was a lower level route across the fields. From Fellfoot Road – a rough track between drystone walls – we entered a network of field paths that linked a succession of houses and farmsteads. Near one of these we were accosted by a friendly local.

Continuing in a generally northerly direction, we passed through parkland belonging to the grand house at Whelprigg and soon saw Barbon ahead of us. Before long we were back in the village, looking forward to a well-earned cup of tea and a piece of cake.

At around 8 miles, this walk is not much more than a good half-day in terms of distance. But in terms of variety and views it has a lot to offer – narrow dale, wild fell, gentle valley and more – and provides a satisfying snapshot of the best this area has to offer.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Leki Makalu Corklite Speedlock £65 - 24/8/11

I must have looked a bit of a sight this summer, hacking up and down the mountains with a pair of ancient, mismatched Brasher hiking poles, both scratched to ribbons and with paint flaking off, one with a broken adjustable strap, and one with a cord loop and no basket. And both as heavy as a length of scaffolding – these babies were definitely pre- the lightweight revolution!

But, and this is the crucial point, they proved very useful on some long and very hot ascents and descents, so much so that I decided to equip myself with a lightweight, modern pair.

Until recently I was much more likely to use a single pole rather than two, which rather goes against the received wisdom, and that primarily when out hillwalking or carrying a heavier pack, say on a multi-day walk. I found it much easier to handle just the one when also faced with consulting the map, negotiating stiles, taking photographs, etc.

But mountain walking is a different kettle of fish altogether - and even more so if undertaking a trek where moving on from day to day is compulsory. Picking up a knee injury might spoil the fun and could be seriously inconvenient!

The benefits of using a pair of poles for steep inclines or with a heavy pack are now well understood – pressure on the crucial joints is reduced and additional propulsion gained from using the arms as well, with the aim of reducing wear and tear and/or injury to those all-important hips, knees and ankles, and making better use of the energy expended.

Of course poles are not for everyone. Many walkers are happy to do without, or find them too cumbersome and fiddly in relation to the benefit gained – I felt that way myself for many years – but, now I’m in my mid- (to late!) forties, those little niggles are that bit more frequent and take that bit longer to get over. I love my walking and plan to keep it up for as long as I can, and I’d be annoyed with myself if I were reduced to an arthritic shamble simply because I didn’t take precautions when I could.

Based on experience gleaned when using the old poles, there were a few basic features I knew I wanted in a new pair; compact enough in size to fit into my luggage if trekking abroad, reasonably light in weight and with cork handles – better, I feel, than the polyurethane, plastic, foam or rubberised options, especially in very hot conditions. They also had to be strong enough to cope, with a solid, simple-to-use, effective locking mechanism.

An Internet search helped dig up reviews, retailers and manufacturers, to help narrow down the options. Having heard tales of cheaper poles bending under even moderate stress or collapsing at inopportune moments, I decided to rule out the budget brands and aim for recognised specialist maker.

As a result, I came across the latest version of the Makalu Corklite, boasting a fair price and a good number of the desirable features I was looking for:

· Ergonomically shaped, ventilated handles with cork finish

· Adjustable, padded neoprene strap

· Aluminium pole

· Speedlock adjustment

· Lightweight (542g per pair)

· Packs small (67.5cm collapsed length inc protective rubber bung)

Speedlock is Leki’s version of a flick-lock locking system, deemed to be a much more reliable mechanism than the twist locking used on some other models and which are far less prone to collapsing at awkward moments, such as river crossings. Water, ice, snow, grit and dust can all act as a lubricant on the twist lock mechanism rendering it far less effective, and if the internal expanders happen to break they can’t be tightened at all.

The flick-lock system used here feels very solid and secure, even when subjected to the bulk of my thirteen-and-a-half stone frame, and no slippage at all has been encountered so far. The mechanism is simplicity itself – just move the pole to the right length and flick the lever closed, something that would still be easy even when wearing thick gloves. I’m not sure it is any quicker, but it is simpler and more solid.

The handles are ergonomically shaped, quite slim and comfortable to use even in very hot conditions, and are made from a moulded and ventilated plastic grip covered with a cork finish. This open handle also helps keep the weight down – at 542g per pair, there are lighter options (eg: carbon fibre poles) but these are fine; a lot lighter than most and still at a reasonable price.

For a three-section pole a collapsed length of 67.5cm is good, too. At this, I have no problem packing it into my holiday luggage or 45lt rucksack when travelling, and the rubber bung (optional extra) prevents it from piercing the fabric if the bags are roughly handled. The aluminium tubing used has a good ratio of strength to weight and appears able to take the knocks.

There is no antishock system in this model. Some like it, and some don’t – I don’t find it of much benefit myself – but it does add to the weight and it’s something I can manage without.

I’ve given these a good preliminary testing during a week’s walking in Austria, where they have been subjected to heat, rain, snow, cold, dust, grit, rocky ascents, steep descents and packed bus rides. They have been bashed against rocks when crossing a boulder field, coped with being continually caught along loose, stony paths and survived being trapped between large rocks, and, so far, they have passed with flying colours.

The handles and straps are very comfortable, especially in really hot weather when the cork finish and the venting really help. They are easy to adjust for length, pack away small and are light enough to be carried strapped to your rucksack when not in use.

Yes, you can get shorter and lighter; yes, you can perhaps get more robust; and yes, you can definitely get more technical. But probably not at a similar price.

Comfort: 8/10
Performance: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Overall: 24/30