Bottoms millpond can at times be full of the dusk sky. We walked there on a cold clear frosty afternoon. The sun was easing itself gently out of the day, filling moorland cloughs and the valley itself with deep cold shadow.
A fair bit of felling had taken place to clear trees whose roots are creeping into the ponds earth dam. Amongst the neatly stacked trunks hot embers of a workers fire glowed. We sat by it like that bloke and his dog on the cover of “Songs from the wood”. But for a few gentle duck ripples ruffling the reflected red bricks of Bottoms Mill all was calm.
Sunset came colourless and cold,barely touching the pond. We walked by the steaming mile race crunching on last nights frost while tonight’s slipped into the valley. Ahead a dipper called and bobbed beneath the river.
Back up on Cartworth Moor it was lighting up time in Holmfirth. Orange street lamps and red splashes of brake lights sketched out darkening roads. Windows glowed warm and at the bottom of the valley Victoria Towers lone navigation light shown red above all else.
Summer slipped into a sort of no man’s land through October before autumn finally kicked in with a late burst of colour well into November. Few frosts but days of dank low mists on the moors which gradually crept lower onto valley chimney pots.
When nothing much is happening with the weather or light it can be hard to find inspiration with the camera but having a dog and liking a walk tends to get you out there amongst it all anyway.
And when you’re out there things tend to happen. A brief lifting of a week long mist,seeing a wall you’ve walked past a hundred times differently or catching a painterly reflection on a day when there should be none.
For November it felt uncomfortably warm climbing up Ramsden Road and into the clough. Overnight rain filled peaty becks with rumbling water which drained from the moor in brown veins. Splashes of autumn colour hung on like spilt paint in tree tops.Low light splashed on long faded heather. A post it note reminder of August colour.
Up on the moor only a breeze and cackling grouse broke the silence as we walked along a peaty path to thread a way along each inlet of clough,beck and contour towards Red Cabin.
Beyond Red Cabin low cloud and dusk caught up with us. We headed off piste down Boggery Dike towards the woods around Yate Holme. Picking a way through deep bracken we put up a mountain hare. The night shift had clocked on. The woods were full of tawny owl conversation and swift ,silent flight. Cold mists swirled about the red lights of Holme Moss transmitter and the air around us filled with the random flight of bats.
Wasn’t much of a day. Dark, wet and breezy but when I’d finished hoovering the stairs I was a free man. A paint spill of sun invited us up onto Cartworth Moor only to meet a shower coming straight for us. We swerved down into Malkin House Wood where a Buzzard mewed unseen in a tree top. A rare sound in these parts. In valley bottom sunshine we watched a chipper dipper on a mid river rock before climbing through the bright spell towards Flush House.
Silver in the sun the Holme Moss road crept through fields and hairpins towards it’s sour summit. Cars glinted star like in the wet light. We jumped a few walls to get to field corner views and watch as light and shadow wrestled across the valley below.
Later a couple of walkers were bathed in a splash of October sun as they walked to Holme through fields of shadows. It was that kind of day.
At Holme it was too good a day to catch the bus homewards and we headed off into late long shadow teatime light on foot.
Not long after we got the “where are you?” text and an offer of a lift home which was diplomatically declined. Bathed in shallow warm light we wandered on towards a creeping dusk.
The damp scent of night fell and a faint white moon emerged near Coddys Farm.
We squeezed out every last drop of day until light and footpaths ran out and we were back down on Dunford Road.
One of the sections of the Pennine Way I eagerly anticipated was the wild peaty emptiness between Birkdale at the head of Teesdale and High Cup Nick. As England goes this is a real empty quarter where that fleeting spirit of the wilds seems to live on among the hags, becks and in the wind.
Sadly as I came out onto the moor what greeted me was a scene of crass destruction by a landowner aided and abetted by a weak bureaucracy which should be protecting this place at all costs.
The beautifully crafted flagged path which had restored a long section of eroded path and had bedded in over many years had been buried under thousands of tons of large stone hardcore which was impossible to walk on. The new track slashes a scar through the peat only the clumsiest of surgeons could create. Where the road did not bury the flags they have been lifted and removed.
It is beyond me how something funded by the public (the flagged path) can be ripped up and replaced by something as ugly,violent and useless to walkers as a wide stone road for vehicles on our foremost National Trail.
Do n’t take my word for it. Please look at the photos.
I’ve discovered that this destruction of the Pennine Way has Planning Permission ! It seems the landowner has wrecked the area with vehicular use and the big idea to fix it is to wreck some more but with official permission!
This is the appropriate information http://t.co/Ccp0QdOvEH
Credit to The Ramblers for objecting. Everyone else seemed to look the other way. One wonders why?
After 16 summers and winters living on Huddersfield Road Holmfirth we’ve recently moved all of 3 quarters of a mile to an 1880′s mill workers house on Dunford Road. The change has given an unexpectedly fresh perspective on these Pennine folds. Out the back the River Ribble bubbles away on it’s way down to the Nook and a long Pennine finger taps on the back door.
The other day we followed the dank setted path to the Ribble where a small but rather grand mossy bridge takes you across. Woodland of birch and sycamore where blackbirds yellow beak sneak away at your leafy footsteps has one side of the valley. Stone houses stacked under and over each other cling steeply to the sunny side. There’s even a bald as a coot millpond in the woods thick with black mud and tree roots like some Northern everglade amongst the millstone.
That long Pennine finger tapping on our back door is Cartworth Moor and with a little huffing and puffing we emerged from the woods and overgrown lane onto it’s rocky knuckle where views of Holmfirth, Castle Hill and the Cliff open up. From our old house we looked up to Cartworth Moor and Wards End the ruined hamlet which is now being “developed”. For years a lone light shone all winter long from up here like a lost star above Holmfirth. Little Owls live amongst the beamed but roofless ruins and are no doubt in the housing market themselves as their home is gradually repossessed by the developers.
Cartworth Moor is the quickest way up and out of the valley and into the peaty wastes on foot. Soon we were up at Hades peat pits where the wind blew warm on cut peat. Sat in the heather on Ramsden Edge a swallow all but combed my hair with a low sweep. Ramsden Clough cuts deep and steep into the hills outdoing Google Earth for perspective. The walk along it’s edge weaves in and out along a thread of contour.
The scent of heather arrived on the warm breeze minutes before we came upon the pin cushion blooms themselves and I wondered if it’s maybe time to put the clocks forward a month to re calibrate the seasons. Back end of August and early September is the time of Ling heather. The bilberries have been and gone before you’d expect to pick them too.
A brace of Holmfirth Harriers past us at pace in the clough their yellow club vests visible long after they’d overtaken us. Way too athletic for a summer afternoon like this. The meagerest of peaty trickles flowed off the moors and was barely enough to give the dog a good drink. July cracks had opened up in the peat so it was dry walking and for once no bog hopping.
Having set off late afternoon we were well into the evening by Red Cabin and so the sun was low highlighting every fold and contour in the patchwork quilt landscape below. Golden grasses shook in the breeze as we sat there looking down the length of our reservoir buttoned valley all the way from Holme Moss to Castle Hill. I wished I’d a sleeping bag!
Our path continued along the edge of moorland escarpment weaving a way through hags and small cloughs towards Holme Moss. A pair of Curlews took flight and called to each other. Their song less territorial now breeding is done for the year. We set off a flurry of beautiful young grouse at our feet and they wheeled away comically like only grouse can.
The change in my pocket reminded me we had a bus to catch at Holme and we really needed to put a few quick steps in and perhaps not dawdle so much over the next hour. We crossed Woodhead Road where a few weeks earlier I’d shared a day up here with 40 odd thousand others for Le Tour Grand Depart. But for a bit of trampling you’d hardly guess such an event had taken place.
With the wind picking up and rain in the air we walked on. Again sticking to the very edge of the escarpment following a pencil line path as it traced a route towards Issue Road, Holme and the 314 down to Holmfirth.
Back in the bothy at Cruib I’d begun to come down with a cold which turned out to be the mother of all viruses laying me low through all of March and on and off through April. This walk then was a much shorter wander than originally day dreamed and I was somewhat uncertain of my staying power as we set off from Kirkby Stephen station for Wild Boar Fell.
Westmorland in May is sun on white limestone and wind roughing up tarns. Miles of walling sweeping weblike over empty fell country where boot prints in peat are as rare a find as hen’s teeth or an almost honest politician. Here light races across land unhindered. Cloud creates contrasts enhancing light with darkness. The air rings with Curlew calls and green oozes from the earth through hedgerows and trees.
Ahead of us the Nab on Wild Boar Fell loomed beneath cloud. Behind the great sweep of the empty North Pennines and Cross Fell. Steady away was the order of the day and we stopped often to absorb our place amongst the hills and enjoy just being here. There’s no rush in my wanderings these days.
Little Fell was a joy of stone cairns, warm sun and train rumbling views across to Mallerstang Edge . Always feel the hard work on this climb is over by this point and the spectacular awaits just a short steep pull ahead. That pull is a rocky crest which leads up to The Nab, for me one of the finest places to find yourself in the Pennines.
A good old breeze nudged us a little on the exposed rocks of The Nab so it seemed a good idea to get the backside down on the ground to enjoy our gusty view North. When I first walked up Wild Boar Fell myself and a mate scrambled up the friable crags on the East side of the hill. As I looked down today there was plenty of evidence of some sizable bits coming away in the winter and crashing into the boulders below. None of the crags along the Eastern edge look at all safe to climb on but ignorance was bliss back then.
We wandered on towards the lovely round stone men where half a malt loaf and some Wensleydale was eaten. From up here I’ve seen from coast to coast and from Sca Fell Pike in the Lakes to the Cleveland Hills in North Yorkshire. It’s such a small scrap of land we inhabit yet these rolling Pennine hills and skies have a vastness beyond what you can put your feet on.
There’s a detail and texture to this land too in the roughness of soft rush on boggy ground, broken scabs of rock , the rash of last years bracken and walls stitched into the earth holding it all together.
There were Plover calling from hags unseen somewhere between Wild Boar and Swarth Fell. The sound of Curlews and farm dogs drifted up from the valley below. The wind just blew. Swarth Fell was bathed in sun which we sat in warm against the rocks. From here a long boggy descent took us to Rawthy Gill Foot for tea time. I put up the tent and sat outside in the evening sun.
There were showers in the night and low cloud on damp hills by morning. I felt the best I’d felt since Jura and headed off up into the misty world of Baugh Fell. You could spend a good few days camped on this hill mooching about its tarns, cairns and peaty wastes. I doubt you’d meet anyone else. I took a bearing by sight for three stone men then one onwards from the map through the gloom towards West Baugh Fell Tarn. Every step is the same in the clouds. Walking from one rock or clump of soft rush to the next guided by a compass is a peculiar experience but an essential skill in the hills. We reached the tarn which was a wind whipped foaming mess then headed off on a longer bearing which took us off the top and down below the clouds to the lovely Ringing Keld Gutter.
Sedbergh sat below us held in green folds between Garsdale and the Howgill Fells. We walked through ever increasing rain off the tops and down into green Garsdale. Dent and the pub would be good I thought as we wandered through the knots and knowles of the Frostrow Fells. The walking became so wet there are only words from here on in as the camera was placed in it’s dry bag!
Wending over field paths and stoney lanes we came soaked through to The Rising Sun in Dent. Thankfully dog and man were welcomed inside to dry by a fire glowing hot from the chimney back. A couple of pints, food and an hour by the fire later I decided to bat on into the sodden afternoon for Ribblehead.
I stood on a lane at the top of the dale watching Swallows feeding low in the only wind free corner of Yorkshire. Holding out a hand I could feel them rush past. It was December dark and awful weather wise with a steep climb over the bare buttocks of Whernside ahead. It was an “I’ve started so I’ll finish” moment and on we went.
We met a sodden walker coming off the hill as we began the climb and by the state of him it didn’t look promising. It’s not the rain or cold but the wind that hurts. It blew in at some speed from our right driving cold dollops of rain relentlessly for the rest of the day without even a hint of stopping. You get the picture.
We came down utterly soaked through and pitched the tent by a roaring waterfall hoping to wake tomorrow in a more idyllic world.
I’d brought the wrong tent pole with me and it didn’t really matter the previous evening in good conditions but tonight as the tent could not be tensioned properly the wind could get in between flysheet and inner which flooded us out by morning. Best bit of kit I take is a 25 quid bivy bag which completely saved the day for me although Mutley wasn’t too happy.
And so it rained and blew throughout the night and sleep was hard to find. By morning it had just about blown itself out and we limped off in the muggy murk the 10 miles to Horton. You probably won’t believe it when I say how much I enjoyed myself!
As nights pullout through April Pennine evenings are thick with Curlew call and white dot lambs. The “golden hour” is just after tea when the sun dips West and redraws a pale landscape anew before dusk.
There is a path above Holme like an uncertain childhood tracing. It’s pencil line begins enthusiastically bold leading out onto the moor before fading to almost nothing amongst peat hags as if the drawers attention wandered elsewhere.
Littering the path owl pellets hold tiny white bones. From a bilberry plant I pick grey mountain hare fur which is warm between my fingers as if I’m touching the hare itself. I don’t want to put it down. The wind blows Curlew sound. I notice boot prints in the peat are mine from another day.
Wrigleys’ Cabin sits between deep peat hags. A stone hag hard to find in mist, fading light or if not paying enough attention. About it mountain hares play hide and seek. Golden Plover sing unseen.
We arrived at sunset and put the tent up as out of the wind as possible which wasn’t much!
When I die I imagine popping off to a great wet peaty wilderness in the sky and Jura felt like a glimpse of that heaven to come. Endless rolling bogs of sponge like consistency lapping up to rocky lochan specked hills. Hemmed by a wild rugged coastline and swept by a bad tempered wind with no end.
Laden with food and fuel for a few days picking a way through this wilderness to a bothy 4 miles or so in became a tiring 3 hour plod. There is no hint of the clearly defined paths on the OS maps and the walk is a jig saw puzzle of deer trods, stalkers tracks, lochans, re entrants and rocky bits requiring some concentration even on the good day we had.
The last mile or so to any bothy seems half as far again when all you want to do is get there and have a brew. We’d had a long road trip from Yorkshire in some poor motorway weather, an Argyll diversion, a couple of ferries and a cancellation and the whisky and dominoes the night night before had caught up with one or two of the group by this final mile. All this slips away when the bothy chimney peeks over the last contour and checking there’s still a roof on the place you relax safe at the sight of your simple refuge in the hills.
It’s ever harder to get properly out of the way these days. The mobile phone is often a dog you can’t trust and places where it can’t sniff you out are few and far between. Difficult avoiding Munros blight in Scotland and so islands and wilder places often draw me in.
It was only when my mate asked if I’d left details of where we were going back home with my missus that I realised I hadn’t. So we’d rather satisfyingly shaken off the Health and Safety police too. Of course I told him I had which was true as she knew we were in Scotland and on an island. It being February I had my son for company and my mate and his lad plus another mate along for the ride. The young ones are old hands at bothies now and know the drill so well it’s a pleasure to watch them go about it all in their quiet self reliant way. The bothy banter from the two of them was top drawer stuff too usually at my expense.
Cruib Lodge sits on a grassy ledge by Loch Tarbert. It’s three porchless rooms face South into prevailing weather. When the front door is open the contents of whichever Atlantic depression happens to be passing by can get in to every corner of the room to rattle rucksacks and pick pocket heat from the fire.
This cat paw wind slashed grey Loch Tarbet to downy gashes.The loch bled white from turbulent wounds. Every last corner of stillness was blown from sea and land. Tiles on the bothy roof rattled like out of tune piano keys. Rain drove at black bothy window pains desperate to escape the wind.
Yet inside each night behind a simple wooden door all this dissipated to a draft as we sat content by a coal fire.
Three Eagles flew low over Cruib. Their long fingered wings fixed still on that wind. Bills hooked bluntly in scowls. Only their heads moved as they studied my little dogs movements among the shore line rocks. I called her to me. Letting the wind take them they soared upwards and backwards to the empty hills behind the bothy.
On Cruib the hill each fold of ground held a silver sequined lochan in an infinity of infinity pools. Pencil line deer paths sketched out contours which we followed to come across a chain of ghostly stags barely visible amongst grey rock and mist. They looked us over briefly before slipping back into their wild world.
We had a weather window not open but ajar. It let in a glimpse of jumbled Jura geography. Loch Tarbet almost cutting the conjoined island twin apart. A long sunlit Mull of Kintyre. The shimmering sea holding Colonsay in it’s silver flow. Rock, water and wind felt with every sense.