Tell The Government Why You Love The Coast

This from the Ramblers…

At the beginning of September, Natural England announced that work has officially started on all stretches of the England Coast Path. We are hugely excited!

The England Coast Path – the world’s longest continuous coastal trail – is an inspirational project born out of years of Ramblers’ campaigning.

Initially we helped to win the Marine and Coastal Access Act which made the coast path possible, when its funding was in doubt our members fought to keep it on track, and our volunteers across the country have been working tirelessly to walk, survey and map out the best route.

The final trail will be almost 3,000 miles long, and it is more than just a path – for the first time it gives the right of access to open coast, it allows people to walk over access land to explore beaches and foreshores, right up to the water’s edge.

“What a wonderful thing: to walk the entire length of a country’s coastline, to trace its every nook, cranny, cliff face, indent and estuary. How better to truly appreciate the shape – and soul – of a nation?”
Lonely Planet on the Wales Coast Path

It won’t just be walkers that will benefit from this landmark project; it is a legacy for the entire nation. The England Coast Path will increase tourism and boost rural economies, it will connect communities, allow us to rediscover our national heritage, and create opportunities for people to enjoy the simple pleasures of being by the seaside.

Natural England has been busy working with landowners, highway authorities and others to open up stretches of the path, and recently they announced (1 September 2017) that work has now started on every stretch. There have been moments when its completion has been in doubt, so with the entire path being worked on and due to open in 2020, we’re getting excited!

To celebrate we are thanking the minister and Natural England for their work driving this project. Tell us why you love the coast and we’ll pull together all your messages to give the minister a big thank you from walkers across the country.

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Return to Loughrigg

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been up, over, around and sometimes under Loughrigg Fell, that modest in height but sprawling stretch of hill that looks so gracefully down on both Grasmere and Ambleside.

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Loughrigg Summit (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Not the greatest height in the Lake District, but one of the best all round viewpoints. The kind of place where you can lose yourself for just an hour, or all day if you feel like it. There are so many rambles on Loughrigg even if you don’t head for the summit.

One of our favourites is to walk from Rydal to the gorgeous Lily Tarn, then around the track to Loughrigg Tarn and up to Deerbolts Wood and returning by way of Loughrigg Terrace, that deservedly popular viewpoint that looks out on the landscape so familiar to William and Dorothy Wordsworth.

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Looking to the Langdale Pikes (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Then there’s the great cave hewn from the slate industry above Rydal, wherein, Wainwright claimed, the whole population of Ambleside could huddle.

But on Friday, we set out for Loughrigg’s summit, not having done it for a few years – the last time we scrambled up through thick snow and ice.

We walked up from Rydal church, taking the lane to Fox Gill, once the home of Thomas De Quincey, who knew Loughrigg very well, walking it by day and night. I never feel I’m very far from De Quincey in this part of the Lakes. If you haven’t read his wonderfully gossipy Recollections of the Lake Poets, then do seek it out – grand reading for a Lake District holiday. The Wordsworth family cut De Quincey dead when they read this indiscreet memoir!

After the short steep bit up by the gill itself, this is a very easy route to the top, the gentlest of ascents with widening views all the way – and conditions for admiring those views were quite perfect on Friday.

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Grasmere from Loughrigg (c) John Bainbridge 2017

So many familiar Lakeland heights, from Windermere in one direction to the Langdale Pikes in another.

Because of its central position, Loughrigg offers a great way to get to know so many places. Sit there with a map or with Wainwright’s guide and you can learn a lot.

We descended by way of the path down to Grasmere, short and easy, to Loughrigg Terrace. On such a nice day there were a fair number of ramblers promenading along its contours.

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Rydal Hall (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Then back to our start via Rydal Water and, as we’d only spent a couple of hours on the fell, we had a stroll through the gardens of Rydal Hall – Wordsworth lived next door and wasn’t wild about this neighbouring property.

An easy morning out, but a rather good walk.

My Walking Book on Sale

My book Wayfarer’s Dole is on sale on Kindle this week for just 99 pence/cents. And you don’t need a Kindle. You can download a free app to your tablet, laptop or Smart Phone. If you prefer it in paperback you can get it for just £6.99.  Wayfarer's Dole: Rambles in the British Countryside by [Bainbridge, John]

This is a book exploring the joys of country walking. Following in the footsteps of some of the great walkers and writers of the past. A book that visits some of the finest landscapes in England and Scotland. A walker’s odyssey into all that is best about the British countryside.

Here’s what WALK MAGAZINE – the official journal of the Ramblers Association said about Wayfarer’s Dole.

This engrossing book by writer, novelist and one-time chief executive of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, John Bainbridge, explores the ethos of rambling via a series of short essays. The book takes its name from the medieval tradition of offering help to pilgrims on foot, but John’s own adventures take him deep into the moors, downs and mountains as he muses on everything from maps, roadside fires, stravaiging and the protection of our ancient footpaths. It’s a very personal but informed and intelligent journey that will resonate with inquisitive ramblers everywhere. WALK MAGAZINE.

In a series of solitary journeys on foot the writer and novelist John Bainbridge explores the ethos of rambling and hiking in rural England and Scotland. On his journeys he seeks out the remaining wild places and ancient trackways, meeting vagabonds and outdoors folk along the way and follows in the footsteps of writers, poets and early travellers. This is a book for everyone who loves the British countryside and walking its long-established footpaths and bridleways.

And for the armchair traveller…

Wayfarer’s Dole takes its title from an ancient tradition – In medieval times pilgrims travelling the road through Winchester to Canterbury would halt at the St Cross Hospital, a place of rest and refuge for those on holy journeys, and demand the Wayfarer’s Dole – small portions of ale and bread to ease the hunger and thirst incurred on their travels. The tradition survives today. If you’re in Winchester you can still claim the Wayfarer’s Dole. 

So if you love country walking and the landscapes of Britain please do give Wayfarer’s Dole a go. And if you know any ramblers or hikers please do share this blog with them.

 You can order Wayfarer’s Dole  by just clicking on the link below. Only 99 for the next seven days to read on any device, or follow the links for the paperback. There’s a free preview, so you can start reading at no cost:  

A Walk to Mayburgh Henge

Dodging the heavy showers we did the very short ramble to look at the antiquities close to Penrith, including Mayburgh Henge, King Arthur’s Round Table (didn’t he get around!), the Roman Fort at Brocavvm, Brougham Castle and Hall – a fascinating walk into the palimpsest that is British history.

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Mayburgh Henge (c) John Bainbridge 2017

We started from the Millenium Stone at Eamont Bridge, a massive and rather wonderful 2000 AD addition to the landscape, acknowledging the area’s prehistoric landscape. How ancient men and women would have appreciated it.

It’s but a few yards to Mayburgh Henge, the impressive Phase II henge monument (3000-2000 BC) that brings you very much in focus with the distant past. Or it would, but for the intrusion of the M6 motorway that runs literally within a hundred feet of it. The traffic noise is quite deafening, but despite that the henge is well worth a visit.

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Mayburgh Henge (c) John Bainbridge 2017

One solitary and quite large standing stone stands within the earthen banks of the henge. We know that there were at least four stones not that long ago, with the suggestion that there was at least one and possibly two stone circles within.

It’s important to look at these antiquities in their landscape context, rather than seeing them as isolated remnants of the past – something this wretched government seems to be forgetting as they attack the considerable prehistoric landscape around Stonehenge. Not far away from Mayburgh are the other henges known as King Arthur’s Round Table. There are many more antiquities in this area, grouped around the Rivers Eamont and Eden. A riparian archaeological landscape that is deeply fascinating.

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The Roman Fort at Brocavvm (c) John Bainbridge 2017

After Mayburgh, we crossed by a beautiful stone stile (Save Our Stiles!) and followed the Eamont to Eamont Bridge, the hamlet nearby named after the old stone structure. This road too has its place in British history. It was this way that Bonnie Prince Charlie fled in 1746, fighting a desperate regard action nearby at Clifton – arguably the last battle on English soil.

The Eamont was near overflowing with muddy brown water as we made our way down to Brougham Castle (pronounced Broom). The keep dates to the 13th century and it became the home to the powerful Cliffords. James I and Charles I both stayed here. The castle was restored by the impressive Lady Ann Clifford (do seek out her diaries, essential reading for those interested in 17th century English history.)

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Brougham Hall (c) John Bainbridge 2017

We couldn’t cross the Eamont directly to it as they are repairing the old bridge, so we were faced with a ghastly quarter of a mile along the verge of the A66 dual carriageway. Not particularly pleasant. How much quieter Neolithic Britain would have been…

But at last we came to Brougham. Of interest here are the mounds making a square, which shows us the site of the Roman fort of Brocavvm. I’ve written on previous blogs about the route of the great Roman road of High Street – well, this fort, built to guard the ford across the Eamont, is its northern end.

Lane walking then to Brougham Hall, a fortified property dating back to the 14th century. It became something of a political salon in Victorian Times. The door knocker is now a reproduction of the 12th century original – probably the biggest door knocker I’ve ever seen.

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The Brougham Hall Door Knocker (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Walking back to Eamont Bridge, we had a look at King Arthur’s Round Table. This too was once an impressive pair of henges, though damaged by road building over the years. It was used for fascinating purposes in recent history. In a book I have on Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling (wrestling is an interest of mine), there is a 1727 illustration of a crowd watching wrestling bouts within recent times.

There is no historical evidence for King Arthur here but, sadly, there seldom is at Arthurian sites, but there is an grand monument to two local men lost during the Boer War, with their faces carved into the stone.

A short walk up the road

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An illustration of the 1725 wrestling match

brought us back to our starting point – a walk of just four miles and five thousand years of British history.

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King Arthur’s Round Table (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Don’t forget that you can enlarge any of the pictures by clicking on them.

Rambling on Dartmoor

Ask any rambler who was walking Dartmoor forty years ago and they will tell you that there were fewer people about out in the wilds. You could walk Dartmoor all day away from the roads and never see anyone else – and if you did bump into some other solitary hiker you probably knew them, so small was the Dartmoor walking fraternity.

I began walking on Dartmoor when I was a child and was always quite determined that I would never walk with a group. I lapsed in 1973 with the intention that it would be a one-off. I had long been a member of the Ramblers Association, supporting their policies on access, but not really interested in their Devon area walks programme.

 

Then I noticed that a walk was being led from Cross Furzes by the late Joe Turner. Someone told me that Joe had a great knowledge of Dartmoor and its archaeology, so I went on his walk, even though I knew that part of the Moor very well.

I found myself among a small crowd of walkers, all of whom seem to be very experienced in all things Dartmoor. That was I think the difference between that group and some I have ventured out with since. Modern groups seem to consist of knowledgeable leaders and a troop who know very little. Among those veterans everyone seemed to have such a great knowledge and experience of Dartmoor.

It was a terrific walk, Joe pointing out numerous antiquities that I had missed on my own expeditions. I was welcomed by this hardy group of veterans and enthused by the comradeship of the rambling movement. Before the day was done I had been persuaded to lead two walks on their next programme and stand for the area committee.

Many older Dartmoor ramblers will have known Joe Turner, if only by reputation. His research as an archaeologist was second to none. As the walks organiser for the Devon Ramblers he must have introduced a great many people to the joys of walking Dartmoor.

And if that was not enough, his hard work led to the creation of the Two Moors Way, a long distance path enjoyed by thousands of people from all around the world. He was a friend to all, one of the nicest and most generous human beings it has been my privilege to know. Joe served for three periods on the Dartmoor National Park Authority, where his knowledge of the area and common sense paid dividends, and was a very welcome member of the Dartmoor Preservation Association committee for many years.

It was Joe and his wife Pat who surveyed all of the antiquities in the Dartmoor forestry plantations, persuading the Forestry Commission to cut away the trees around them, preserving them for future generations. We miss Joe’s company still.

In 1974, Joe’s walks programme consisted of a Perambulation of the Forest of Dartmoor, in a series of twelve walks. I did them all and seem to recall it was a very wet year – at least eleven of the rambles took place in driving rain. I have an abiding memory of the entire party being roped together to facilitate a crossing of a very flooded River Tavy.

But it was a terrific Dartmoor experience, and set the scene for a whole series of themed walks programmes, such as walking Dartmoor’s leats, or exploring the scenes described in Eden Phillpotts’ novels. All through the coming years I walked with the Devon Ramblers each Sunday and by myself elsewhere in the week.

The Devon Ramblers Association really came about thanks to the hard work and dedication of Miss Hilda Biscoe of Throwleigh, who brought the Devon area into being and served as its secretary for quite a while. She was already quite elderly when I knew her, but was a steadfast Dartmoor walker, leading rambles almost to the end of her life, despite near blindness.

The Devon Ramblers Association fought in many of the great campaigns to save Dartmoor around that time, such as the battle against a reservoir at Swincombe, and the construction of the Okehampton bypass. Countless rights of way were saved from closure and cleared of obstructions, and many walks arranged for members and the general public.

Walks were quite long by comparison to many group rambles these days. And the day didn’t end when you took your boots off. Several members lived on Dartmoor, and we would go back to their homes for sumptuous feasts which went on late into the evening. I have particular memories of a post walk dinner at Gamble Cottage, west of Hameldon, and then the home of Dr Alan Barwell and his wife, which ended some time after midnight.

Alan had been a prisoner of the Japanese during the War, but bore no grudges. I remember his accompanying two elderly Japanese tourists on one walk, all three laughing and joking all the way. Alan would occasionally alarm me by scooping up water in a plastic cup to drink from the muddiest of Dartmoor puddles. I recall one funny occasion when we went to examine a dead pony on the top of Sheepstor, to see why it might have died. The attempted post-mortem came to a speedy end when the apparently dead animal experienced an amazing resurrection almost throwing Alan and myself down the rocky tor.

The chairman of the Devon Ramblers Association at this time was Ron Vinnicombe, headmaster of the school in Bovey Tracey and a local councillor.

Ron very much led the campaigning side of the RA in Devon and was a doughty fighter for the rights of walkers. He led the RA in the battle against the military on Dartmoor, and spoke with some experience having been an army major in the War. He wrote a very good little pamphlet of walks from Bovey Tracey, which deserves to be back in print.

A near neighbour of his, Pam Lind, took the group on nature rambles, often leading the walkers into the very heart of a Dartmoor bog, so that we might examine its flora and fauna.

 

In 1976, Dartmoor experienced its worst drought in living memory, the water in the reservoirs disappeared and rivers became puddles. An overbearing heat pressed down on the walkers, making long journeys near impossible. It was almost the only weather that interfered with an increasingly ambitious walks programme. I recall that some paths across the worst of Dartmoor’s mires changed position after the drought.

Towards the end of the decade the RA walkers group changed for ever. The Ramblers Association decreed that there should be many more groups in Devon, and the dedicated area walkers faced being placed in groups scattered around and away from their many friends. They countered this by forming the Moorland Group of the Ramblers so that they might stay together.  The Moorland Group was a great success and flourishes to this day.

In later years, Ron, area secretary Alan Haines, and I founded the Teignmouth and Dawlish Ramblers at my suggestion which still goes strong and walks a great deal on Dartmoor, and I switched allegiance from the Moorland Group.

So if you are walking in Devon do seek them out via their respective websites.

Good times!

A Walk to Knock Pike

You can easily park your car somewhere near the hamlet of Knock, on the edge of the Pennines, and walk up the distinctive Knock Pike. But it’s the sort of short walk you’d do only if you were really pushed for time.

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Knock Pike from Cosca Hill (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Instead, we started from the neighbouring village of Dufton and walked through some very attractive countryside to get there.

I’ve mentioned before the three distinctive pikes that you see as you drive along the A66 from Penrith to Appleby. I’ve blogged the ascents of the two highest – Murton Pike and Dufton Pike (see blogs passim). These massive hills rise along the edge of the Eden Valley like mighty guardians for the greater slopes of the north Pennines.

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Dufton (c) John Bainbridge 2017

And it was using the Pennine Way that we left Dufton on our way to Knock Pike. (If you’re feeling energetic you can easily incorporate Dufton Pike on to this walk).

Dufton – the village of the doves – is a very pretty place. The poet W.H. Auden thought it one of the prettiest in England. In the bed and breakfasts and the youth hostel you might find ramblers doing the Pennine Way – an attractive part of that National Trail (could we rename then National Ways please? A Trail sounds something vaguely Wild West).

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Hurning Lane (c) John Bainbridge 2017

And this stretch of the Pennine Way from Dufton to Cosca Hill runs up a very attractive green lane of considerable antiquity called Hurning Lane. So pretty with the first shades of autumn colouring on the trees.

Along the track is the derelict farmhouse of Halsteads. I mentioned this on my blog on Dufton Pike. Pity to see it like this, though it’s the sort of place I used to spend the night in during my tramping days. It would make a splendid bothy or camping barn for Pennine Way walkers.

After Cosca Hill, the track runs downhill to a ford over the Great Rundale Beck (you can turn right here to ascend Dufton Pike, but see my blog – you get hung up with walls if you try to go up too early).

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Dufton and Murton Pikes from the summit of Knock Pike (c) John Bainbridge 2017

But this day we turned left, through the gate by the ford and over a lovely little clam bridge. A few yards up the track we crossed a stile over the wall (I love our old stiles) and took the footpath running parallel to the beck at Knock Gill. Climbing up through the fields we reached a track which winds up and around the eastern side of Knock Pike.

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Halsteads (c) John Bainbridge 2017

This too must be quite an ancient route, though the undergrowth is claiming it back. It really needs clearing by next year. (Duly reported to Pathwatch on the Ramblers Association website).

Mind, we collected a lot of blackberries along the way and quite delicious they were.

You need to follow the path right to the northern side of Knock Pike before you begin the climb upwards. There’s a very obvious path for the first part, leading to a saddle between Knock Pike and its spur. At the top of the saddle you make the grassy ascent to the top. There’s no clear path, suggesting that this is the least climbed of the three pikes.

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The Old Bridge (c) John Bainbridge 2017

It was very blowy on the top, but the views are magnificent. Excellent views of the other two pikes, the Pennines, the Eden Valley across to Wild Boar Fell and the Lakeland mountains.

We descended on to the footpath north of the Pike (mind you skirt the spur – there’s an old quarry of considerable proportions if you try to go direct.). Then out on to the lane leading down into Knock – a quiet place of attractive cottages and a rather splendid and still in use old Mission Hall.

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The Eden Valley from Knock Pike (c) John Bainbridge 2017

We walked back to Dufton by way of the quiet lane, though there are footpaths to either side if you fancy a few diversions.

Knock Pike might be the smallest of the three but it has some very pleasant walking as you get there.

A Roman Road in Eden

It’s a few years since we last walked part of the Roman road that runs through the Eden valley, not far from Appleby. The section of the old road between Fair Hill and Powis House has the advantage of being a public bridleway.

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On the Roman Road (c) John Bainbridge 2017

An important Roman road too – leading away from the Roman fort at Bravoniacum (now near Kirkby Thore) and across the Pennines via the Stainmore Gap. Look at its line on the Ordnance Survey map and see how much of its survives, though some has been incorporated into the present A66 trunk route. But there are fortlets and many other Roman remains all along the road.

Appleby was never a Roman settlement, and the Roman road bypasses the old county town of Westmorland. Appleby, as the by at the end of its name implies was a Viking settlement. In later years this whole area, now English, was very much a part of Scotland.

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Quiet country on the Roman road (c) John Bainbridge 2017

The portion of the road we followed – now a green track – begins at Fair Hill, where the Gypsies come and camp each June for the famous Appleby horse fair.

The line of the Roman road is very atmospheric and beautifully quiet, with a great deal of wildlife to be seen along the way. Although traces of the Roman road are just below the surface, this section is wonderfully straight and you can well imagine the legions marching along.

What we did notice compared to last time was that there was a great deal of vegetation growth along the Roman road. A few years ago, it was a very wide track. It still is, except in a few places where the overgrowth and fallen trees have taken over. It would be impossible to use the road now as a bridleway. There were several portions where we had to fight our way through on foot.

I’ve submitted a complaint to the Ramblers Association, via their Pathwatch scheme. I do hope they will get something done about it. These tracks are part of our history and we shouldn’t let government cuts caused by potty austerity lead to their destruction. It’s been there for a couple of thousand years – we shouldn’t see it wiped off the map now.

The Roman road as a public right of way comes to a sudden halt near to Powis House. We wandered up the lane to Long Marton church, a delightfully simple building dating mostly back to the 1100s.

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Long Marton Church (c) John Bainbridge 2017

More lane roaming took us into Brampton, a hamlet of delightful cottages. Good to see that the pub has re-opened. We wish it well – so many village inns have closed in recent years.

Near to Clickham Farm, we turned to look at a footpath called Lime Lane, which we hadn’t been down before. The first part was completely overgrown with nettles (another Ramblers Association complaint submitted). But not far beyond it becomes a much better green lane, winding around the side of Gallows Hill.

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A Head in Long Marton Church (c) John Bainbridge 2017

And a gallows there once was – this is where you were brought to be “turned off” in the days when the courts sat at Appleby. Most of the victims, of course, were the desperate poor rather than real criminals.

The path takes a winding route back up to the course of the Roman road, now a surfaced country lane. We followed the roads back into Appleby – a bend in the River Eden that few Romans would have known.