William Wordsworth Takes Direct Action

The poet William Wordsworth took direct action to break open a blocked right of way on the land of Sir John Wallace, when journeying to Lowther Castle for a dinner held in the poet’s honour.Beamish Winter 034.JPG

During the meal an apoplectic Sir John complained that his wall had been broken down and, if he ever found out who was responsible, he would get out his horsewhip.

At which point Wordsworth got to his feet, saying “I broke down your wall, Sir John. It was obstructing an ancient right of way, and I will do it again. I am a Tory, but scratch me on the back deep enough and you will find the Whig in me yet”. A witness to Wordsworth’s action stated that the poet attacked the obstructing wall “as if it were a living enemy”.

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Saving Our Ancient Tracks

Have you noticed how fashionable our ancient tracks have become?A Lake District Corpse Road 014.JPG

Those lovely old paths which may have been used by drovers and pilgrims, marching armies or industrial workers. Or even the local footpaths which people used to get to church or market.

Our ancient tracks are as important to our history as the stone circles, the henges and hill-forts beloved by antiquaries. They should be cherished and protected. Lose them and we lose much of our history.

But, they have certainly become fashionable: the current issue of Country Walking magazine devotes much of its pages to walking ancient trackways: Tony Robinson has a Channel 4 television series where he walks ancient tracks: Robert Macfarlane has a best-selling book, The Old Ways, on the subject. I commend them all to you.

How the world has changed over the past few years…

Not so long ago, those of us campaigning to have our ancient tracks and their original lines preserved felt like voices crying in the wilderness.

Landowners sought to have these important tracks diverted or closed, aided by dreadful local councils and even national park authorities. Some of them are still at it. “Why does it matter?”, these people said to me. “Who’s bothered about the paths people used to get to church or wherever?”

Even some footpath officers in Ramblers Association groups happily waved through dreadful diversions and closures, terrified of being branded ‘militant’ if they didn’t. Many of these diversions agreed were awful on the ground, even if you took away any historical links.

But I scent the winds of change. The more people write or broadcast about the historical gems these paths are, then the better.

Footpath officers, whether they be Ramblers or council, should work on the presumption that all closures and diversions should be opposed.

We should no more contemplate wiping out the line of an ancient trackway than we would contemplate knocking down the old stones of Avebury or Stonehenge.

Every twist of a path tells us much about the people who created it with sometimes centuries of long use.

Let’s save at least some of our much-battered heritage for the generations to come.

I’ve written a lot about my own feelings about ancient tracks in my books The Compleat Trespasser and Wayfarer’s Dole. Here are the links if you’d care to have a look… 

Ullswater Way – Pooley Bridge to Swarthbeck

And so our irregular walking of the Ullswater Way comes to an end, as we explore the bit between Pooley Bridge and Swarthbeck Gill. Or rather sections in the plural, for two alternatives are given. A high level and a low level route. So, to make a circular walk, we decided to walk both – taking the high ground at the start and returning closer to the lake.

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Ullswater from Howe Hill (c) John Bainbridge 2017

The first section follows the lane out of Pooley Bridge up Howe Hill and out on to open fell between Heughscar Hill and Moor Divock. I’ve blogged before about the important archaeology of this area. Not just the Roman road of High Street, but the stone circle known as The Cockpit and a huge number of other antiquities which probably all relate to each other. What we’d have called a sanctuary in my Dartmoor days.

At The Cockpit, the Way gently winds below Arthur’s Pike, offering wonderful views not only over Ullswater, but along what is one of the most impressive hillsides in Lakeland.

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The Cockpit (c) John Bainbridge 2017

To mark the Ullswater Way, a grand sitting stone has been placed here to commemorate the life and work of the incomparable A.Wainwright, at a point where he sketched one of his views across the lake.

We made very good use of it!

At Swarthbeck, beloved of Gill scramblers outside nesting times, we turned down past Swarthbeck Farm and wandered through mountain meadows to the beautifully-named Crook-a-dyke and Seat Farm. Then down to the lane for a brief while before following the lakeshore from Waterside House.

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The Wainwright Stone (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Much of this part of the Way is full of camping sites, and it was good to see so many people enjoying the fine day. Good too to look up at the neighbouring hillside with its dramatic crags, which we’d wondered through only an hour or two before.

The Ullswater Way follows the lakeshore and then the banks of the River Eamont back to Pooley Bridge.

Our Ullswater Way explorations at an end.

But if you are looking for a reasonably easy expedition in the Lake District then I commend to you the Ullswater Way. And by supporting local businesses, be they shops, bed and breakfast accommodation or whatever, you are directly helping communities like Pooley Bridge and Glenridding and the others that are still recovering from the devastation caused by Storm Desmond nearly two years ago.

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Swarthbeck Gill (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Do google Ullswater Way and download the free guide leaflet.

And if you’ve missed any of the blogged walks just type Ullswater Way on to the search over to the right on the page here.

On the Ullswater Way – the bit around Hallin Fell

Regular readers will know that we’ve been walking the Ullswater Way, completely out of sequence and often incorporating other footpaths to make a circular walk. Well worth doing if you favour easy rambles between higher fell walks. So do type in Ullswater Way into the search if you want to see the other walks.

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(c) John Bainbridge 2017

This was the shortest of our Ullswater Way walks, the bit that circles Hallin Fell, close to the shores of the lake, on very pretty wooded paths. To make it a tad longer, we followed the way around the watered fringes of Howtown, up on to the fellside of Hewthwaite and nearly to Swarthbeck Gill.

As we started our circuit from Martindale new church, you might as well nip up to the top of Hallin Fell before you finish what is, after all, only a pleasant morning’s walk.

I like the walk down to Bridge End and Sandwick from Martindale. Gorgeous paths with sensational views back up Martindale to The Nab, then up Boredale with the great mass of Place Fell – one of my favourite Lakeland fells – dominating all.

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In Hallinhag Wood (c) John Bainbridge 2017

A lovely unspoiled landscape, with some glorious old local buildings. The Way, as I’ve said is very near the lakeshore, as it winds through the beautifully-named Hallinhag Wood to Geordie’s Crag (who was this Geordie?) where we stopped for a break.

Then down to Howtown, where we watched the steamer come in and out to the pier.

The Way leaves the immediate shores of Ullswater at this point and climbs the fell to Hewthwaite, giving wider views of the lake – the planners of the Ullswater Way were wise to give their path sections that see the lake from different distances. Better than keeping it to the immediate shoreline all the way.

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Approaching Howtown (c) John Bainbridge 2017

From Swarthbeck we returned a little the same way before taking a footpath to Mellguards and then back to Howtown, before cutting through the twisting zig-zag roads back to Martindale new church.

A short section of the Way, though our circular walk added a little distance. But with some particularly fine views along the journey.

Do look at the Ullswater Way website at http://www.ullswater.com/the-ullswater-way/ The whole route would be a splendid expedition for a weekend, or even a day if you are feeling fit.

Saints, Shrines and Pilgrims

Saints, Shrines and Pilgrims by Roger Rosewell is a new addition to the excellent range of Shire Publications. With so many ramblers following the old pilgrim routes, whether in the UK or further afield, this is a good introduction to the medieval folk who went on pilgrimage.

Roger Rosewell looks at the growth of pilgrimages and their decline, the saints and their shrines they sought out, the people who made the pilgrimages, and just why they did. For some it was an act of pure devotion, for others a way to find escape from the long hours of labouring – their holy days became our holidays.

The number of Britons who went on a pilgrimage are incredible. In 1534, even as the Reformation was getting under way and on the eve of the odious Henry VIII scrapping the shrines, 62,000 pilgrims visited the shrine at Walsingham.

There’s a useful list of saints and some absolutely beautiful illustrations and Mr Rosewell is a most entertaining writer.

Whether you have religious beliefs or not, this is a fascinating read. Highly recommended and a source for planning some interesting expeditions. Worth all seeking out Mr Rosewell’s other excellent book on medieval wall paintings too.