Westmorland Heritage Walk 2004

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 2 - Days 1 & 2 - Arnside to Sedbergh


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Day 1 - Saturday 10th July - 18 miles - 2,220 ft ascent

Arnside to Kirkby Lonsdale via Arnside Knott and Holme Park Fell

I arose at 7.30 whilst my room-mate still slept, and joined last night's group of people for breakfast at 8.00, then packed my things, moved my car to where the warden had suggested and set off by 9.15. It was rather overcast and muggy but with nothing more than the odd spot of rain. The tide was quite well out which made the initial four miles along the coast easier. At high tide this route can be impassable in places, whereas now I was able to walk along the beach. It was not easy going all the way, however, as I was sometimes torn between sticky mud from the estuary and rough stones further up. In general though it was a pleasant walk with views across to Grange over Sands and then further along to Heysham Power Station. Leaving the coast at last, a steady ascent brought me up onto Arnside Knott which, at 522 ft, commands a fine view of the estuary with its long, wooden railway viaduct on which trains could be heard clattering their way across. The weather was looking rather unsettled as I stopped for a rest, with some thicker cloud now gathering and a few more spots of rain. All of this limited the view to about ten miles. The rain soon started to increase and, for about an hour, was quite heavy before easing off again.

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Kent Viaduct from Arnside Knott
Kent Viaduct
Fairy Steps near Beetham. Fairies grant a wish to anyone climbing steps without touching sides.
Fairy Steps near Beetham
Farleton Knott from Holmepark Fell
Farleton Knott

I had a few problems navigating using the rather sketchy map book, wearing rain splattered glasses, and having a route description on a different page from the map, but I eventually found my way to the Fairy Steps. The wet limestone steps, polished by years of clambering feet, were treacherously slippery. The rain still persisted, but had eased off enough for me to take a lunch break there before negotiating the narrow cleft in the rock through which the steps climb. The saying is that the fairies will grant a wish to anyone who can climb the steps without touching the sides. With a bulky rucksack and slippery steps, there was no way that I could even attempt the challenge, so I took the safer option of using my hands on the sides, rather than having to rely on a wish to heal my injuries from having slipped and fallen.

Past Beetham, the rain had eased off enough for me to remove my waterproofs, only to be confronted a short while later by wet corn that was waist high. When I reached Holme Park Fell, the highest point of the day, I was rewarded with a whole panorama of mountains and hills from the Lakeland Fells to the Howgill Fells, Ingleborough, the Forest of Bowland (I think) and the area from which I had just walked near Morecambe Bay. By now I was starting to find the going a little hard, this being rather a long walk for the first day, and not helped by my lack of training leading up to the walk. I had the feeling that my leg muscles were going to suffer in the morning, a problem I don't usually suffer whilst I do regular long walks. There were a few signs for the 'Limestone Link', which was a new one on me and I am not sure where it begins or ends, or what it links to what.

The final stretch of the day, after Hutton Roof Crags, leads across some very large fields with no visible path most of the way. Even with the aid of my GPS, I found it difficult to find a route that didn't involve climbing over walls, as the terrain just didn't seem to match up with my guidebook. It is always difficult to navigate in this sort of terrain, as there are no landmarks from which to get a bearing - the first indication that something is wrong is when there is a wall barring the way with no sign of a gate or stile to be seen. At 6 pm, I finally reached Kirkby Lonsdale and found my B&B, where I had the luxury of a nice hot bath to soothe my weary legs.

There was no mobile phone reception, so I had to hunt for a phone box to report home before going to the Red Dragon for some Jennings' bitter and a Cumberland sausage followed by sticky toffee pudding. I then strolled down by the river where I sat watching fish occasionally leaping out of the water. It was very calm and peaceful though still overcast. When I got up to go, I found that my legs had seized up, and it took a while to get them going again. However, the steep climb up steps to Ruskin's View soon sorted them out. I then had a wander around town before calling for a couple of pints of Timothy Taylor's Landlord in the Snooty Fox. The whole town was full of bikers - I had noticed on my way, that the playing fields had a mass of tents, mostly belonging to bikers, so I wondered if there was some event on locally. Finally, I returned to my B&B for an early night, more for the rest than for the sleep.


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Day 2 - Sunday 11th July - 15.5 miles - 2,850 ft ascent

Kirkby Lonsdale to Sedbergh via Calf Top

Breakfast was at 8.30 and I joined an Irishman from County Down, who stays there quite regularly. By 9.15 I was on my way at the start of another overcast day, calling at the Spar shop for a few things for lunch before rejoining the route by Ruskin's View. I took a path down to the river, not thinking it would matter which one I took. It was very steep and slippery on the way down and I soon found that it was not an easy option to follow the river the way I needed to go. There were some very steep embankments dropping right down to the river and I managed to get past one by paddling in the water, but the next one was impassable, so I had a very steep and difficult scramble to get back up to the footpath by Ruskin's View. From there, I dropped down the steps that I should have taken in the first place and followed the river to Devil's Bridge, which carried the A65 over the river before the bypass was built.

Despite careful checking of the map, I still managed to go wrong in a few places, as the route meandered in and out of fields and country lanes for the next few miles, but I didn't stray too far off course. After Barbon village, the route at last heads for higher ground, and I stopped on Devil's Crag at noon for lunch. The climb was very steep and a bit of a struggle at this stage of the walk, though it tends to get easier after the first few days. I was surprised to find that I had only done just over five miles in two and three quarter hours, mostly on fairly flat ground, but my pace was quite steady at this stage and some time had been wasted studying the map and trying to keep on the correct path.

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Barbon Church
Barbon Church
Barbon and Lune Valley from Devil's Crag on Eskholme Pike
Barbon and Lune Valley

There was quite a fine view from Devil's Crag across the Lune Valley with the coast still in sight, and the Lake District in full view. I watched as a band of heavy rain passed several miles to the south, and the weather over the Howgill Fells was looking pretty bad, but it was still alright where I was, apart from turning very cool. The rest of the ascent to Castle Knott and then to Calf Top (1,998 ft) was thankfully more gradual and not too much of an effort to climb. I stopped for a short break at the summit where the scenery was looking very grey in the overcast conditions. It soon started raining, so I quickly put on my waterproofs but, by the time I had got them on, it had eased off to just a drizzle. The worst of the weather was now to the east, making the Yorkshire Dales look very bleak and drab. In contrast, the west was looking quite a bit brighter, with even the odd patch of weak sunshine here and there. Even the Howgills had lost the worst of their thick cloud.

On the long and steady descent towards Sedbergh, I met several walkers, having seen none earlier in the day. Any remaining drizzle cleared and the temperature got a little less icy, as I dropped down from the hills into the valley for the final walk into Sedbergh. This part of the walk was more tedious as it involved quite a bit of road walking, albeit on minor roads with little or no traffic. My B&B was at Briggflats, about a mile or more on the far side of town, so I ended up doing about 16.5 miles altogether, arriving just after 6 pm. I had got it into my mind that it was only 14 miles, as last time I stayed at Catholes, which was over a mile before Sedbergh, otherwise I would have pressed on a little faster.

Joyce and Peter Cox were very welcoming and asked if I wanted a meal there, as they were already preparing one for a lady who was walking the Dales Way, so I took up their offer to save walking back into town. The lady was 60 and lived in Leeds with her husband, but he was too busy at work to walk with her. She originated from Windermere and was walking there to a reunion of girls with whom she had been at Kendal School. After dinner, I decided to walk into town for a couple of pints and took the Dales Way route by the river rather than the more direct road route that I had come along. However, this proved to be rather circuitous, as there was no right of way to the river near the B&B, and the route came out at the far side of town, so it took me about 45 minutes at quite a brisk pace. Although this route was more pleasant for walking, I opted for the shorter route back, as I had done enough walking for one day already.


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