Walk One - Walking the Jurassic Coast: Branscombe to Beer
Walk Two - Walking Dartmoor: Haytor Vale and Ilsington
Walk Three - Walking Dartmoor: Jay's Grave and Hound Tor
Walk Four - Walking from Lustleigh, Dartmoor
Walk Five - Circling Dufton Pike
Walk Six - A Walk in Eden
Walk Seven - Above Glen Banvie
Walk Eight - Walking Hilton, on the edge of the Pennines
Walk Nine - Loughrigg Terrace and the Rydal Coffin Route
Walk Ten - Walking Grey Crag and Alcock Tarn from Grasmere
Walk Eleven - Walking in the Atholl Deer Forest
This week we had a delightful walk from Branscombe to Beer. A beautiful day though, with a head breeze on the last coastal section of chalk and flints. Some very steep climbs, but well worth the effort. I give the route below and recommend it as a good exploration of part of the Jurassic Coast.
Both Branscombe and Beer were famous haunts of the Devon smugglers, particularly Jack Rattenbury who was born in the later town. He lived long enough to write his memoirs. Many of the hills you will walk across are hollow. The Beer Quarry Caveshave been quarried for Beer Stone since Roman times, used in many of our great buildings and cathedrals. A visit to the caves can easily be incorporated into this walk.
You can find a walk taking in the next section of the Jurassic coast (Branscombe westwards) on the “Walks” section of my website http://www.johnbainbridgewriter.com/. If you are feeling energetic the two walks may be combined into one long Jurassic Coast tramp.
The walk starts from the car park at Branscombe village hall, map reference: SY197887. The whole walk is just under eight miles with 1686 feet of climb. Some of the ascents and descents are extremely steep so, unless you are a fellrunner, please take them slowly. There are toilets, pubs and tea-rooms in Branscombe,Branscombe Mouth and Beer.
As always you do the walk at your own risk. Remember there are many more walks on my website http://www.johnbainbridgewriter.com/
1. Leave the car park and turn left. Soon after passing the village hall take a right fork down lane and then path signposted “Branscombe Mouth”. Follow for quarter of a mile, passing on the way the old Town Mill. Continue through the gate and down the path there. When the path widens into a green, take the left fork, following this until the road and part of Branscombe village are reached. Turn hard right up the road marked “Beach”. Continue up this steep hill, passing en route Branscombe’s old Victorian vicarage. At the next junction turn hard left for a few yards and then right up a public footpath signed “Beer Quarry and Beer”.
2. This very steep climb leads to the summit of Stockham’s Hill. Do take it gently. Ignore the two paths that go off to the left and continue to the top of the hill, where a slight swing to the right brings you to a further stile. Cross this and continue along the path following the left hand field edge. At the end of the field is a kissing gate on left. Pass through. Go directly across the field beyond to stile on the opposite side. Cross this and the track beyond, then straight across the next field towards the trees.
3. Cross the stile and take the pleasant woodland path beyond. After a quarter mile, this ends at a gate. Cross the stile just to the right and continue down a track until a country lane is reached. On your right here are the Beer Quarry Caves, which are well worth a visit. Turn left up the lane. After a quarter mile, turn hard right down a public right of way, signposted “Paizen Lane to Beer”. Follow this downhill for a mile until the outskirts of the little town of Beer are reached. Turn left and follow the streets downhill until you reach the sea front. Note the memorial to the artist Hamilton Macallum – a good place to sit and watch the fishing boats.
4. After exploring Beer, take the road nearest to the sea, called Common Lane, as it climbs steeply westwards out of the town. At the top, as a car park hoves into view, turn left on to the coast path (it swings left towards the cliffs after 200 yards). Now simply follow the very well waymarked coast path some two miles to Branscombe Mouth, passing en route the great chalk cliffs of Beer Head. (After a mile, just past a bench, you have the opportunity to descend the cliffs to the great landslip of the Under Hooken as an alternative to the clifftop walk – both routes are superb – just follow the footpath signs to Branscombe Mouth).
5. When Branscombe Mouth is reached, cross the brook and walk up to the Sea Shanty, a combination of pub, cafe and shop. Immediately past the shop, turn right along a path for Branscombe. Keep left at the next three junctions.This path, just under a mile, takes you back to the start of the walk.
Walk Two - Walking Dartmoor: Haytor Vale and Ilsington
There are some delightful short rambles on the Dartmoor borders, which tend to get neglected by the hardier moor walker.
The walk starts at the Haytor Lower Car Park, map reference SX766772, halfway between Bovey Tracey and Widecombe. The route is 5.4 miles and there is 1,024 feet of climb, though this is spread out across the walk. The ramble is mostly on paths and quiet lanes with just a bit of open moorland at the end. There are pubs atHaytor Vale and Ilsington, and there are toilets at the start of the ramble. Watch out for traffic on the lane sections. Suggested Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 Dartmoor. As always you do the walk at your own risk!
1. Facing the road, leave the car park and turn right down the road, passing the Moorland House Hotel on your right – a regular visitor in the 1930s was Agatha Christie. Take the next turning on the right, then turn left down a lane signposted “Haytor Vale”. Continue down the hill for 250 yards. Just by a house called “Day’s Folly”, two paths go off to the left. Take the lower footpath. After a few yards, behind the rear of some cottages, the path veers to the left and becomes narrower. At the next junction turn right downhill into woodland.
2. This is a most pleasant wooded stretch of the walk. Notice the remains of the old iron mine as you go. This operated from the 1850s to about 1910. Nature has recaptured most of the old workings.. At the next path junction, keep right (signposted bridlepath Smallacombe Farm) down through a delightful woodland dell. After a hundred yards, the path crosses a brook and continues downhill. Ignore all paths to left. Pass through two gates above Smallacombe, and continue in the same direction (path signposted Middlecott). Follow the obvious path through three fields until a gate leads out on to a country lane.
3. Turn left up the steep lane for 200 yards. Then right at the next junction. Continue downhill for a half mile. As you go notice the restored lime kiln in the hedge on the left. Turn right downhill at the next lane junction. At the foot of the hill, after a quarter mile, where the lane veers to the left, take the rough track on your right as it climbs up through the woods. At the top, turn right into the village of Ilsington, then, passing the old forge, right again. Notice the unusual lych gate into the churchyard, surmounted by what used to be the Ilsington village schoolroom – it is said that the room collapsed one day when someone slammed the gate too hard! Ilsington was the birth parish, in 1586, of the dramatist John Ford.
4. Just after, turn right again into Honeywell Lane. Follow this for a half mile. At the next junction take the second right lane, keeping to the right hand side of Ilsington’s Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1852 and with some fine views from its little churchyard. Keep on this lane as it climbs steadily uphill and winds to the right. Half a mile of walking brings you to Birchhanger crossroads. Turn right here uphill (signposted Haytor). After a quarter mile the lane goes downhill. Just afterwards a track goes off to the left, signposted as a “bridleway to the moor”. Take this. It dips down to the waters of theRiver Lemon, now spanned by a stone clam bridge erected recently to the memory of Hilda Mary Taylor “a lover of Dartmoor”. Cross here and follow the path uphill until you reach open moorland.
5. Climb the moorland hill in front of you. After roughly two hundred yards, you reach a rough path heading to the right (northwards). Follow this until it reaches the Haytor road and the start of the ramble is once again in sight (about three quarters of a mile). The path can become overgrown in the summer months, so make sure you are keeping roughly parallel to the wall and enclosures down to your right. Keep well above the wall to avoid some tiring Dartmoor bogs! Enjoy the Walk!
Walk Three - Walking Dartmoor: Jay's Grave and Hound Tor
A shorter walk on the Dartmoor borderlands, revisiting some of the first areas I got to know over forty years ago. I give the route below, for it is a pleasant ramble – good for an evening walk.
The walk starts from the village of Manaton, once the home of the novelist and playwright John Galsworthy, author of The Forsyte Saga. He lived at Wingstone Farm, having eloped there with his cousin’s ex-wife Ada Nemesis Cooper. Yes, Nemesis! Enough said…
The route climbs over Hayne Down past Bowerman’s Nose to Jay’s Grave – the last resting place of Kitty Jay, who hanged herself two hundred years ago and was buried at the crossroads. Then to Hound Tor and the ruins of the nearby Medieval village, before returning via Leighon.
Our walk was a day of good views. You can certainly see some goodly stretches of Dartmoor from the high points of this walk. The sky was full of larks, foxgloves lined the walls of the Houndtor village, stonecrop covered the flatter boulders. If you do the walk, I hope you enjoy it.
The walk starts at the Manaton village car park, map reference SX750813. The route is some 6 miles and there is 1,040 feet of climb, though this is spread out across the walk. The ramble is mostly on paths, quiet lanes with some open moorland. Watch out for traffic on the lane sections. Suggested Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 Dartmoor. As always you do the walk at your own risk!
1. Leave the car park by the lower entrance. Cross at the crossroads, heading down the lane signposted Leighon. Descend to the foot of the hill, passing Mill Farm. After a slight rise take the second gate to your right. After a wooded and rocky entrance, the path heads left across a field. Exit at the stile and gate on the far side. Turn right up a lane which becomes a bridleway as it swings to the left by the entrance to Hayne House. This climbs to a gate leading out on to Hayne Down.
2. The path climbs diagonally up the side of the Down, heading just south of west for a quarter mile, towards a notable group of rocks. This is the lower of Hayne Down’s two summits. Make your way to their western side and you will encounter Bowerman’s Nose, a very distinctive pile of rocks. After visiting this notable Dartmoor landmark, descend westwards to a narrow lane (there are several paths all heading downhill). On reaching the lane, turn left until a gate is reached.
3. Pass through the gate, and take the bridleway to the right a few yards in. This clear path marks the boundary between Cripdon Down and Swine Down, climbing and then gradually descending. Follow for a quarter mile until another lane is reached. Here is Jay’s Grave, never without the flowers which mysteriously appear! Turn left along the lane for half a mile until the next junction (you can follow a path running parallel to the tarmac on the left bank). The crossroads is Swallerton Gate. Thor Heyerdahl wrote much of his book The Kon-Tiki Expedition in the nearby cottage.
4. In front of you is Hound Tor, one of the most spectacular of Dartmoor summits. Climb up to this, passing between the highest sections of the tor, a wonderful viewpoint for much of eastern Dartmoor. On the far (eastern) side of the tor, take the broad track heading downhill into the moorland valley (when the path is blocked by a line of anti-erosion fencing, head right for a few yards and then continue downhill.) This brings you to the ruins of the Hound Tor Medieval Village, a good place for a tea-break. This village was abandoned in the Middle Ages and only rediscovered and excavated in the past century.
5. Continue in the same direction, keeping to the left of the dramatic Greator Rocks. After a slight rise, pass through a gate and the descend down the steep path beyond. A quarter mile brings you down to the Becka Brook, which is crossed here by an old stone bridge, a delightful spot of twisted trees, boulders and thick layers of moss. Cross the bridge and take the path through the trees which winds and twists for a quarter mile until open moorland is reached.
6. At the path junction head left, contouring the lower slopes of the hill. The path runs parallel to the trees and stone walls, running through heather and bracken. After a quarter mile it becomes enclosed. Follow it downhill, passing through two gates. There are good views here back up to Hound Tor and Greator. At the next path junction, head left, down into the hamlet of Leighon. The path becomes a surfaced lane and crosses the Becka Brook again at a lovely old bridge.
7. Ignore the first path to the left (signposted Great Houndtor) but take the second, just past a grey stone cottage. Cross the stile and take the path through the wood. Cross a stile just after a tiny brook is crossed. Ascend the field beyond, keeping parallel to the left hand hedge, past some mighty boulders (note the good view of Black Hill over your right shoulder as you gain height).
8. At the top of the field pass through a gate on to a country lane. Turn right and follow the lane back into Manaton (straight across at the crossroads halfway). As you pass through the hamlet of Southcott, note the House Martin nests lining the eaves of the white cottage. Enjoy the walk!
Walk Three - Walking Dartmoor: Lustleigh
Lustleigh remains the unspoiled Dartmoor village I first knew so many years ago, still retaining most of its thatched cottages, the surrounding fields and woodlands filled with huge boulders. A place to linger, with a delightful array of public footpaths, bridleways and open country which make access a delight. Pick a nice day and take your camera. This is not a very long walk, but it does pass through some of the very best of Dartmoor border scenery.
The walk starts on the green opposite Lustleigh parish church, map reference SX785813. The route is some 6 miles and there is 1,175 feet of climb, though this is spread out across the walk. The ramble is almost entirely on woodland paths, some of which are quite steep and rocky so take care! Suggested Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 Dartmoor. As always you do the walk at your own risk! Please note that there is NO car park in Lustleigh, so park carefully around the village. It is best to arrive early to ensure a space or better still use public transport, avoiding church service times.
1. Walk down by the village cross, steer left in front of the chapel, crossing a stone bridge. Follow the track to the hamlet of Wreyland, a delightful mix of thatched cottages of considerable age, immortalised in the book Small Talk at Wreyland by Cecil Torr. Keep right after first cottages. Just after Barn House turn right up a public footpath signposted “Lustleigh Indirect”. Continue for 200 yards. As the track veers left take the footpath through the gate in front of you signposted Lustleigh.
2. Follow left hand hedge to the very bottom of the field, where it continues down a stepped gully. Beyond, an obvious path winds to the left into woodland, in the midst of which a footbridge crosses a brook. The clear path then continues, climbs to take you past the old railway line which originally ran from Newton Abbot to Moretonhampstead, then up to a lane. Turn left for just a few yards, then right up a bridleway. This steep ascent leads up to an imposing house called Rudge.
3. Turn left up the lane in front of Rudge to a T-junction called Rudge Cross. Turn left, then almost immediately right up a bridleway signposted to Hisley and Rudge Wood. The path steers to the left of the house at Hisley, then, after passing through a shooting gate, turns right and then left through the Hisley outbuildings. The path then contours the hillside through woodland, offering excellent views towards Trendlebere Down, Black Hill, and over the famous Lustleigh Cleave. Look out for the large boulders of Gradner Rocks above you on the left as you begin to descend.
4. The track heads downhill for just over half a mile, then doglegs back to the right. At its lowest point you are just above the River Bovey, which you will hear before you see it! (A short diversion from here to your left will take you down to the ancient and very picturesque Hisley Bridge). After this point, the track climbs steadily through Hisley Wood for three quarters of a mile. At the next path junction, follow the public footpath signposted to Lustleigh Cleave. Just after, pass through a gate and begin a steep climb uphill.
5. At the next path junction, take the path signposted to Manaton and Water. Follow for just over a half mile, ignoring any side paths. At the next signposted junction take the path signposted to Hammerslake and Lustleigh. Keep following the Hammerslake signs. The top of the slope is reached and then the path runs downhill at the edge of the woodlands. There are superb views across the Wrey valley at this point. As the path dips down it becomes narrow and rocky, arriving eventually at a gate which you should pass through. A gully path leads to the road a hundred yards further on. (If you are not very agile you can turn right at this point and follow the lane back to Lustleigh).
5. If you are okay with rough paths, turn left along the lane, then just a few yards on, right over a stile on to a footpath signposted Church Steps for Lustleigh. This winds left for a few yards, then makes a very steep and rocky descent. Take care and take it slowly as it is quite rough going. After a half mile a footbridge takes the path over a brook. And then up past a cottage on your right. Just after, to the right, a footpath goes off signposted Lustleigh. A few yards on, bear right, ignoring the path to the Manor House to the left.
6. After a quarter of a mile you emerge through a shooting gate (notice the huge boulders around and about). Cross to the bottom of the field (marked Lustleigh indirect). Pass through the gate and turn hard left. This path crosses a tiny brook using boulders and a tiny stone bridge. The path climbs to a junction, turn left, over a footbridge, then walk through Lustleigh’s lovely old orchard back to the village. Notice the rock, complete with throne, where the village’s May Queens are crowned. Enjoy the walk!
Walk Five- Walking the Pennines: Circling Dufton Pike
As you drive down the A66 from Penrith to Appleby, the great western edge of the Pennines looms across the Eden valley. On the edge of this mighty range of hills are three distinct pikes, Knock Pike, Dufton Pike and Murton Pike – all worthy of a climb. But the paths around the pikes are well worth a walk too, offering a variety of excellent shorter walks.
The other day we set off from the charming village of Dufton – the village of the doves – to circle Dufton Pike. The first part of the ramble, up Hurning Lane, is part of the Pennine Way. The lane is an old green track, with attractive stone clam bridges, and rough rock paving slabs alongside the wet bits. After an initial shower, the weather cleared to a beautiful day of bright blue skies, offering distant views of snow-covered fells around Shap and the eastern Lake District.
As we climbed Cosca Hill, the Pennine Way became exceptionally muddy, but then there has been a great deal of rain and melting snow. Walking above the track made the going a lot easier. We left the Pennine Way at the Great Rundale Beck, to walk the far side of Dufton Pike.
A lovely grassy track winds high above the beck, through a quiet lost valley where time seems to have stood still, a sanctuary from our hurried modern world, offering views up to the Whin Sill of Threlkeld Side, a magnificent canyon, a smaller version of the more famous High Cup Nick.
As we turned the corner of the Pike and descended back to Dufton, much of the Eden valley, distant Pennine heights and the Howgills came into view, some of the higher ground covered in snow, ending a grand walk in really good weather.
It has been said, rightly, that if the Lake District didn’t exist, this part of Cumbria would be thronged with fellwalkers. As it happened we saw only a distant shepherd with his dog. These really are grand and somewhat neglected hills.
Walk Six- Walking the Pennines: A Walk in Eden
The snow held fast to the high Pennines, but the fields of the Eden valley were clear, the mud hardened by the frost. Walking across to Bandley Brook from Appleby, we stood on the footbridge over the Hoff Beck. A few weeks ago, this now mild little beck had torn down the valley, threatening the gardens of the cottagers in Colby. But on this cold February day the beck had sunk back into its regular course.
We walked down past Cuddling Hole to the hamlet of Hoff, such a good Viking name, and watched dippers on the rocks and shillets, as we approached the picturesque waterfall at Rutter Force, the subject of many a picture postcard.
I have fond memories of Rutter Force. The first time I ever did this walk, albeit in the other direction, was a day of driving rain. Once there was a tearoom at the waterfall, and the kindly proprietor plied me with refills of tea and toast. The second time, by contrast, was in a heat wave, the beck dried in the drought.
Over the hill then, via Donkeys Nest, or Porch cottage as it is more prosaically labelled on the map, towards Great Ormside. As we approached that quiet village the snow began to fall, so we missed the church (we have been there before and commend it, with its beautiful setting on a Viking mound.
By the time we reached the River Eden, the ground was well covered by snow and great patches of ice covered the slower bends of the water. A silent world of white, with only the occasional train on the Settle to Carlisle line breaking the peace. Then through what were once the policies of Appleby Castle, the paths marked by the footprints of heron and squirrel.
It is so good to be out on foot on these wonderful winter days.
Walk Seven - Walking Above Glen Banvie
Just over a week ago we walked up through Glen Banvie in the Atholl deer forests, up to the snow line below Beinn Dearg. But for my recurrent foot problem we might have gone further. As it was we did a longer walk than planned, as always reluctant to turn back.
We had intended just to walk the tourist trail through the wooded lower section above the Banvie Burn, but once through the deer gate we could not resist climbing upwards towards the snow. Not that the foot of the Glen isn’t spectacular. It is. A deep wooded gorge, green cliffs falling to the roaring waters of the burn. The winding path dipping now and again to cross the burn at some very attractive stone bridges.
But the hill beyond has a feel of real wilderness. As we breasted the first slope, we saw a distant stag on Tom nan Cruach, with a hint of red deer hinds beyond. We descended to cross the Allt na Moine Baine, its waters cold with what had been snow such a little time before. Then up the track running parallel to the Allt an t-Seapail.
Winding round the slopes of Carn Dearg, we caught tantalising glimpses of Beinn Dearg, the Munro’s highest slopes covered in snow. So near and yet so far, for my errant foot was not on its best behaviour.
With reluctance, on the slopes of Meall Tionail, we turned back down to Glen Banvie.
Back within the deer fence, we followed the true right bank of the Banvie Burn, down into the woodlands above Blair Castle, diverting to see The Whim, the folly built in 1761 as a focal point for people in the castle grounds. In the field below shepherds with their dogs were rallying the sheep in a scene probably little changed for years.
Walk Eight - Walking from Hilton on the edge of the Pennines.
This five mile ramble from Hilton, just up from Appleby on the edge of the Pennines, didn’t get off to the best of starts. The footpath leading out of this moorland hamlet was completely blocked by stinging nettles. Ah, the benefits of a walking stick. Lots of bashing and not a single sting. Then, as we followed the Hilton Beck, more troubles with the path. Erosion into the sandstone had tumbled the path line into the beck, leaving a slippery clutch of path, high above the water – too dangerous to contemplate after lots of heavy rain. Thanks to the CRoW (Countryside and Rights of Way) Act the heath above was opened for walking. Just as well or the walk might have terminated there and then.The path was obviously once popular, for it was good and wide in places. Past Stoneriggs Farm, which looked a bit Wuthering Heights in the grey weather, we found ourselves out on the bleak Brackenber Moor, much of which is now occupied by the Appleby Golf Club. Much of the golf course is mapped as CRoW land, and crossed by several rights of way. Ramblers and golfers don’t really mix, but the players here seemed friendly, though I suspect these paths are not very well used.
We walked over the links towards the hamlet of Langton, though we stayed on the southern side of the Hilton Beck, with dramatic, though not particularly big sandstone cliffs. Very good for birds. A pair of Lapwings on the stone wall above the opposite bank, then two curlews, very close, flying above our heads, stalking the fields and beckside.
Back across the golf course, or moor, to Brackenber, passing two lakes upon the way, one of which the local wildfowl had adopted as home. Then down a green lane from Brackenber, signposted “Hag’s Lane”. Delightful for its first stretches, then up a footpath, admittedly signed but poorly waymarked as climbed back towards Hilton and Roman Fell. The latter looked dramatic as the mist swept across it, though on most days it is out of bounds, part of the Warcop firing ranges. We turned just before the usual MoD notices that threatened death and destruction if you carried on. A short walk then back to Hilton.
The area around Hilton would be great for rambling if someone would get to work on the paths thereabouts, some of which are shamefully neglected. Just getting people to walk them more often would probably keep them open. Perhaps the local Ramblers group could go and have a look?
Walk Nine - Loughrigg Terrace and the Rydal Corpse Road
After weeks of rain the weather relented to give us a fine summer day in the Lakes. Leaving Rydal church we walked down to the River Rothay, climbing up to the great cave at Loughrigg quarries, the remnants of a once-busy slate industry – a massive cave. Wainwright says in his Central Fells that you could get the population of Ambleside within – I suspect you can, though, as the great man said, some would be standing in water. It was wetter yesterday, after all the rain, than I have ever seen it.Its waters clear, Rydal looked delightful in the sunshine, a heron flapped down beside us, perhaps a descendant of herons known to William and Dorothy Wordsworth.
This route is my favoured climb up to the summit of Loughrigg Fell, that modest height that offers such wonderful views in all directions, particularly up to the mountains of the Fairfield Horseshoe. But, after a bit of a lay-off, we fancied an easy walk, so followed the path on to Loughrigg Terrace. A very clear day, as we looked at the views over Grasmere to Dunmail Raise. Then down through the woods at Red Bank and into the village.
(Memo: The latest addition to rip-off Britain; if you want to use the WC in Grasmere they have started charging – a false and short-sighted economy).
Walked out then to Dove Cottage, then up to White Moss Tarn, where Wordsworth used to ice-skate, then on the coffin route back to Rydal.
I like following corpse roads, those ways used by our ancestors to convey the departed to their final burial. You really feel that you are walking in the steps of history on these old paths. Another reason why ramblers should resist most path diversions. I have followed a number of Lych Ways around the country, from the famous one across the wilds of Dartmoor to more modest routes in East Anglia. They are worth seeking out. Walking them is a fascinating hobby.
From a scenic point of view the Rydal coffin route is one of the best in the country, with some excellent examples of coffin stones, places where the dead might be rested – to the relief of the carriers. In earlier times, there would have been no coffins, just a shroud of wool. For a long time using a shroud of wool was compulsory, a way of boosting the economy and keeping England’s wool industry going.
This coffin route runs from Ambleside to Grasmere Church, and most of it can still be followed away from present-day roads. We were walking it backwards in effect, only doing the stretch from Grasmere to Rydal. Its original beginnings, from Ambleside to Rydal, provides a good route for you between the two points of the Fairfield Horseshoe.
Walk Ten Walking Grey Crag and Alcock Tarn from Grasmere
About 5 miles with 1200 feet of ascent: We set out from Grasmere on a morning’s fell walk to Grey Crag and Alcock Tarn, returning via Greenhead Gill. First up past Dove Cottage, on the old coffin route which comes in from Ambleside. Then northwards in the direction of the tarn.
Above Wood Close, the path becomes rocky and steep, with quite excellent views across Grasmere as we climbed. After a mile of ascent, we came to Grey Crag, a lovely outcrop of rock on the slopes of Heron Pike . Grey Crag deserves to be better known, for it is a superlative viewpoint, not only of the mountains of central Lakeland, but of down much of the length of Windermere, with glimpses of Coniston and Esthwaite Water.
A hundred yards further on is Alcock Tarn, part natural and part Victorian reservoir, marshy and attractive. After a period of level walking the path descends rapidly, beneath Butter Crags, into the deep valley of the Greenhead Gill, with good dramatic views across to Stone Arthur. The Gill is a lovely, rocky beck of attractive little water falls, it banks offering splendid locations for tea breaks. Then a gentle descent by path and lane into Grasmere.
A good short fell-walk from Grasmere.
Walk Eleven - Walking in the Atholl Deer Forest
Walking in the Atholl Deer Forest
A few months ago I described a walk we took up into the hills above Blair Atholl, climbing up into the snowline and seeing distant stags (see blog April 26th 2012). The other week we returned, hoping to hear stags bellow.The car park below Glen Tilt was chock full of ramblers from Edinburgh, as we squeezed into the last available space, setting out ahead of them up Glen Banvie, following the waters of the Banvie Burn. The autumn colours were nearly there, but needed a week or two to be at their most glorious. Passing through the deer fence at the edge of the woodland, we headed out on to the hill, first above the Banvie Burn, then up a stalkers track across the Allt na Moine Baine water and then around the slopes of Carn Dearg Beag.
Then out into wilder countryside above the waters of Allt an t-Seapail. As we approached the little wooden bridge across the tumbling burn, we heard the distant bellowing of a stag somewhere around the misty heights of Beinn Dearg. Not as loud as some I have heard before, but still unearthly, an echoing vibrational tone of raw nature. As we headed over to the edges of Glen Bruar we heard another stag bellow, the air filling with the sound, albeit still at a distance. A grouse jumped from the heather with its loud cry of “Go Back”!
One of the reasons people go hillwalking, I suppose, is to get away from the turmoil of modern life. Looking across the vast mountains and moorlands of Atholl, it seemed a world away from grubby politicians holding meaningless party conferences where the hopes and desires of most of society seem to be ignored.
Putting on the news that night, back in Pitlochry, I thought how our politicians might benefit from days in the hills. Few do nowadays, compared to the happy decades when it was not unusual to see cabinet ministers out on the Pennine Way, or tallying up their latest Munro.
In wildness lies the hope of the world, to paraphrase the poet. A good hard day in the hills, feeling the cold air sweep up the course of a highland burn, hearing a stag bellow might do our politicians the world of good.