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National Park Extensions? Please, Not Yet!

Hearings on the proposed extensions of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks start today.

I wrote most of the following on my personal Facebook account earlier this morning and then thought I should put it here too, even though I’m aware that it might well lead to losing some friends.

I love both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, and because of this I’m very doubtful about the wisdom of extending the two national parks.

To name but one issue, property prices will almost certainly rise significantly, both in the parks themselves and in the areas adjacent to their new boundaries, making it even more difficult for local young people to afford to live here. How many local shops and schools will close?

At the same time the proportion of homes bought up as holiday homes will increase. I’m not here talking about rental properties that are occupied for a significant part of the year. Managing and caring for these as part of the tourism sector does provide some local employment, although they can become a problem if they form too high a proportion of the local housing stock. I mean those owned by individual families and occupied for just a few weeks or even weekends each year and otherwise locked up unused for months on end

Then again, whilst planning regulations are important they can also be counterproductive when applied unintelligently. Local families and businesses will discover that changes to their properties will become considerably more expensive. Projects that would have been feasible, and with zero or negligible environmental impact, will either be abandoned or made marginally viable due to overweening bureaucracy, elevated and expensive construction standards, delay and cost. This is not theory; this is the past experience of so many.

Until the legal terms of reference of national parks are updated to take far greater account of the economic prosperity and social wellbeing of local communities I am opposed to the extension.

Both park authorities do, of course, make some effort in this direction. Under their present constitutions, however, it seems to me that there will always be the danger of bias towards fundamentalist and anti-human environmentalism. Emotionally driven populist campaigns will frequently prevail unless there is a stronger legally backed obligation on the park authorities to give greater weight to the prospering of local people. Agendas aimed at turning these beautiful regions back to some imagined, romantic ecological and landscape utopia are dangerous. Local people are part of the landscape, not a dangerous “invasive species” as so often they appear to be viewed.

National Parks do some great work, both the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales need protection, but the balance needs to be changed.


Terrible Things Happen In Beautiful Places

Injured lamb - Dog warning

Starting a short walk by Goldrill Beck and Brothers’ Water this afternoon I was stopped in my tracks by this poster. What was such a gruesome image doing in such a beautiful place?

The National Trust appears to have concluded that shock tactics are necessary. Far too many sheep and lambs are attacked by dogs each year. Something has to be done to stop it. I hope this poster has the required effect, even if it does make for a somewhat disturbing start to an afternoon walk.

Goldrill Beck and Brothers Water Cumbria Goldrill Beck from Cow Bridge Hartsop Brothers Water - Lake District

Hellgill Force near the source of the Eden

Hellgill Force - Eden Valley - MallerstangToday I did another of my photo-drive-walks, returning to Mallerstang for the second week in succession. Last week I did a circular walk between Nateby and Pendragon Castle, taking in Lammerside Castle, so today after a few shots of Pendragon Castle (over the wall; it’s now “closed to public access for building repairs”) I started near Outhwaite and with a combination of driving and walking eventually reached Hell Gill Bridge, up on the old Wensleydale to Eden Valley felltops “Highway”.

Apart from about two minutes of rain, which threatened to continue long and hard but then went away, it was a splendid day with blue sky and clouds, and brief moments in time when the light was just right for some great shots … if only you could catch it before the cloud moved on.

I’ve been hoping for some time to get my “perfect shot” of Hellgill Force. I didn’t achieve it today but was moderately pleased with two – although after shrinking to web-page size they’re certainly not as I’d like. Much can be done by digital processing but quite apart from the little matter of competence I don’t like tweaking images to the extent that they stop being genuine photos and become more like art work.

Hellgill Force Mallerstang - Eden Valley Cumbria

Discomfort and Problems

Sadly, earlier in the day I had my first experience in this area of being made to feel unwelcome. As I was photographing a bridge alongside the road I had for several minutes noticed a Landrover being driven very slowly towards me. Thinking nothing much of it I crossed the bridge, took more photos, and then found the Landrover had driven slowly off the road onto the bridge, blocking my way out. I nodded to him with a smile, and stood aside to let him pass, but all the elderly driver did was stare at me.

Young River Eden in MallerstangIt suddenly dawned that he must have been watching me for some time taking photographs of the area. Granted, I’d taken several photos of Outhgill village, including the house where the parents of the great nineteenth century scientist Michael Faraday lived for a while shortly before he was born; I’d photographed the parish church (one of Lady Anne Clifford’s 17th century restorations) both outside and inside, and the converted Wesleyan chapel.

Was I therefore a potential burglar checking out the opportunities? Hmm! But why would a burglar include bridges, lime kilns, lambs, streams and felltops in his list of prospects?

Well, I’ve faced worse people in many countries of the world so as he didn’t look the talkative type I decided just to turn around, take more bridge and river photos including the one above on the left and see whether he got out to talk to me. He didn’t. Slowly he reversed off the bridge onto the road and drove (very slowly) away.

I am, of course, aware that there has been a problem with rural burglary in parts of Cumbria, and the police have issued warnings. I can’t be sure that this was the cause of my unpleasant experience, but I suspect strongly that it was and have to ask, Are all camera-toting visitors this summer to be treated as suspicious characters? If anything similarly unpleasant happens again I’ll be the one challenging the watcher to discover what really is going on.

Hell Gill Bridge … and a climb too many

Hell Gill Beck above Hellgill Force - Mallerstang CumbriaMy plan today was to walk from Aisgill Cottages at the Westmorland-Yorkshire (or should I say Cumbria-North Yorkshire) boundary up to Hell Gill Bridge on the old packhorse route. I’d spent more time than originally intended lower down the valley but was determined to get up to the Eden’s first bridge. Otherwise my self-appointed target of getting pictures of all the bridges over the River Eden from Mallerstang to Carlisle by the end of this month was unlikely to be reached, even though I’m now at about 90%. So after taking the above photos at Hellgill Force I continued up the track onto the fell, taking shots of the constantly changing stream as I went.

Infant River Eden above Hellgill ForceA couple of hundred yards beyond Hellgill Farm, which is just about visible beyond the barn (left, taken from what I now think of as the Eden’s second bridge) a gate leads out onto the ancient “Highway” that probably dates back to before Roman times and was once the route of Lady Anne Clifford’s frequent journeys from Skipton to visit her Westmorland castles: Pendragon, Brough, Appleby and Brougham.

Gate sign by Hell Gill BridgeDid I say the gate “leads out”? Not today it doesn’t! Certainly there’s a sign telling people to make sure they close it, and I’m all in favour of this kind of signage around the countryside, but how can anyone close a gate that they can’t first open because it’s securely padlocked?

“But there’s a style”, I hear someone say. Yes, but what a style! A wall of shoulder height or more, some slabs sticking out to help you climb over, and wobbly cap stones.

Padlocked gate at Hellgill BridgeForty, or even twenty years ago, that would have been no obstacle, but now? Well, I hadn’t come so far to allow a wall to be an obstacle so I hoisted my near seventy-year-old bones over it and reached the “Highway”. Now I know that farmers do have genuine problems with some walkers, but can it be within the rules for a gate in such a position on a public right of way to be padlocked? I can think of many people who would have had serious problems at this point in their walk. Is it really necessary to cause such difficulties?

Hell Gill Bridge At Last

Hell Gill Bridge MallerstangAnyway, at least I got my photos of Hell Gill Bridge. Here’s one of them, taken from the eastern side and attempting to show the depth of the ravine that it crosses.

Without trespassing over the fence and clambering riskily through the trees it isn’t possible to plumb the depths with the lens, but it’s deep and the sound of Hell Gill Beck, not yet the River Eden until below Hellgill Force, rises from the depths.

After intending to come here for many months I’m glad that I’ve now got a step nearer to the origins of the river that flows, usually so leisurely, close to my Appleby home.

Not all is sweetness and light in the countryside

It seems a pity to spoil the record of a great day out surrounded by splendid landscape with another comment on human beings. Why do I do it? Well it’s part of the reality of being out in the countryside. Just possibly (very remotely possible, I admit) someone who is less than welcoming to walkers might see this and mend their ways, but more importantly, it may help new walkers to understand that people are people, and we’re not all the same, even in remote places. We just have to accept it and get on with life.

Later I was on yet another bridge when a muddy 4×4 drove off the hillside and down towards me. In this case I think he was simply out monitoring his sheep, not me, but certainly there was no friendliness. I stood aside to let him pass, looked at him, smiled and said hello through his open window. I might as well not have existed. Not a flicker of acknowledgement. In human terms this was not a good day.

A Great Kindness … and More of Beautiful Mallerstang

Mallerstang Common and Wild Boar Fell from near The ThrangI must say that the above is not typical of my experiences of walking in the Eden Valley, and it will take more than a few isolated episodes of discourtesy to drive me away.

Mallerstang, and the Eden Valley generally, is beautiful countryside. It’s just a pity about a small minority of the people.

What a contrast with the gentleman who last week, when I’d walked further than intended and was feeling dehydrated, went into his house and got me a glass of cold refreshing water. That was much more typical of Cumbrian people, so let’s put the negative behind us and in closing get back to the friendly landscape – a view (above) from near The Thrang showing Mallerstang Common with Wild Boar Fell behind, and (below) a black and white image of the end of Wild Boar Fell seen from near Hellgill Force.

Wild Boar Fell from near Hellgill Force Mallerstang

The River Eden below Pendragon Castle MallerstangYesterday was a beautiful early Spring day in Mallerstang. Yes, I know that in many parts of the country Spring is already well and truly sprung but up here in the North, in a valley whose lowest points are around 1000 feet above sea level, Spring is still on its way in.

The photo here on the left was taken from the hillside to the west of the river, close to the path from Wharton Hall to Pendragon Castle. The millstone grit of Mallerstang Edge over the lower limestone fellside forms a backcloth to the young Eden in the valley bottom.

Below, looking downstream by Castle Bridge buds can clearly be seen on the trees, and shortly the stream will be surrounded by green.

River Eden - Castle Bridge Mallerstang Cumbria

After a quick look once again at Pendragon Castle I returned down the valley to Watter Yat (called Birkett Bottom on the OS maps) only to be faced with this disgraceful situation. If only the people who left this disgusting mess could be caught and duly punished!

Litter at Birkett Bottom Mallerstang Cumbria

But let’s not get too depressed. The view up the valley today was exceptional.

Mallerstang from Watter Yat - Cumbria Eden Valley

People who have come to think of Cumbria as being the Lake District are often surprised at the many beautiful areas outside the national park, and Mallerstang (just a few miles from Kirkby Stephen in the Eden Valley) is outstanding among these.


Appleby in Westmorland – An April Afternoon

After spending Saturday morning listening to lectures on bridges at a Cumbria Industrial History Society conference I suppose it is appropriate to show a photo from Saturday afternoon of the Appleby “New” Bridge over the River Eden – that is, it was new in 1888.

Appleby Bridge - River Eden - Cumbria - Eden Valley - Westmorland

The next shot is taken from the bridge looking dowstream. Spring is late this year. We’re still waiting for leaves on the trees but at least the daffoldils are now out, albeit I would say not as brilliantly as some years.

River Eden Appleby Cumbria Eden Valley

Walking down the path by the river I’m hailed by a table full of young people in the cricket ground between the church and the river. “Like your camera; photographing the cricket?” I had been a few minutes earlier.

Appleby in Westmorland - Cumbria - April Cricket

“How about a photograph of us?” “Now if I took one what would I do with it?” “Put it on Facebook,” suggested one of them. Maybe they were surprised that an oldie like me could offer to put it on Twitter, MySpace and a few others as well. Yes, I was indulging in a bit of techno-bragging. Anyway, as I left they waved cheerfully (bottom left on the next photo) … So if you see it guys (yes, I told them the url) you’ll see I did keep my promise to put you on my site.

Walk along the Eden by Appleby Crcket Ground

So where to next? I decided to have another go at photographing the parish church, something I’ve done before but never been totally (or anywhere near) satisfied with my efforts. I’ll maybe publish the results sometime, but for now here’s a shot looking away from the church up Boroughgate toward the castle.

Boroughgate - Appleby in Westmorland - Cumbria

That’s it for today. After a nice warm Saturday in the Eden Valley we’ve returned to Monday chill. Ah well, no doubt Summer will come.

More on Appleby in Westmorland. (And here’s a link to the new Appleby Town web site)


Tuxford Mill, Nottinghamshire

Last week as I was driving through Tuxford in Nottinghamshire I couldn’t resist stopping to take a photograph of the old windmill. Its sails were turning just as they must have done a century and more ago. A splendid sight.

Tuxford Mill - A Working Windmill

A few days earlier I’d been looking at watermills in Cambridgeshire. Milling appears to have become something of an interest to me at present.


Anglesey Abbey Gardens – The Winter Walk

Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge

Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property near Cambridge, although in parts almost nine hundred years old is in its present form the creation of its more recent owners from the sixteenth century onwards, culminating in the work of the 1st Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966) a grandson of one of the founders of what is now the Exxon oil company. It is well worth a visit on at least three counts: the house, the gardens and the watermill. At this time of year for me the garden Winter Walk is the highlight. It starts well, and gets even better.

Winter Walk - Anglesey Abbey - Cambridge

Whether looking at the taller shrubs or the low-lying beds the array of colours is amazing.

Winter Walk at Anglesey Abbey Cambridge

Continuing our walk we come to a hedge ablaze.

Anglesey Abbey - nr Cambridge - Garden Winter Walk

And still there’s more variety:

Winter Walk Anglesey Abbey Near Cambridge - Winter Walk at Anglesey Abbey

Photographs can scarcely do it justice. This splendid winter garden deserves a visit, The walk can take anything from twenty minutes to a hour depending on how many times you stop to admire the plants.

At the End of the Winter Garden Walk

… and at the end is the restored and working working watermill, Lode Mill, at which to spend at least another half hour to learn about its history and that of flour milling – and even to buy some of their own produced flour.

Anglesey Abbey - Lode Mill watermill - nr Cambridge

If you’re visiting Cambridge don’t restrict yourself to the impressive buildings, the ancient colleges, old churches and museums of Cambridge itself. Explore other parts of Cambridgeshire, and don’t miss Anglesey Abbey. It’s a very special place: garden, house and watermill … and more! It’s a National Trust property; so why not buy a National Trust Membership now and get free access to all their properties around the country.

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Two Cambridgeshire Watermills

En route to a weekend conference in Cambridge last Friday I managed to squeeze in visits to two still-working watermills, both at properties managed by the National Trust. The first, at Houghton near Huntingdon, is the only remaining working watermill on the Great Ouse, and I was looking forward to the visit. Sadly I’d misread the National Trust handbook and it was closed for the day (it opens from Saturday to Wednesday) but I did manage to get some photographs from the outside.

Houghton Mill - Watermill on the Great Ouse near Huntingdon Anglesey Abbey Cambridge - Watermill

As a result of not being able to look around in greater detail I had some spare time so headed to Anglesey Abbey. I’ll be writing more another time about this magnificent house but for now here’s a shot of the watermill framed in the hedge as you emerge from the magnificent gardens.

Although now once again a flour mill (and you can buy the flour) Lode Mill spent some years as part of a cement factory but has now been restored. Inside you can climb the stairs to upper floors and see the machinery. There are very interesting displays relating not only to this particular mill but to the history of milling in general.

Anglesey Mill Watermill near Cambridge - Flour Milling

I’m especially grateful to the staff who suggested that I take the final photograph below and who, having let me out of the back door, were gracious enough to let me back in through the ‘No Entry’ sign. This was my third National Trust property of the day and I can only praise the staff at the two that were open and who, after hearing of what I’m trying to do with the Around-England site, were so very helpful. (By the way, the first of the day was further north at Woolsthorpe in Lincolnshire, birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton; I’ll write about that another day).

Anglesey Abbey Watermill - near Cambridge
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Winter by the Water at Ullswater

Last week I drove to Glenridding, the popular village close to the head of Ullswater in the Lake District. After a walk up the hill behind the village and a retreat as the snow started to come down quite steadily, I decided to stroll along the lake to St. Patrick’s boat landing by the side of the road to Patterdale.

The snow had stopped (or maybe it never started at the lower altitude) so it was possible to getsome pictures. There were no boats going out. Indeed, the office and cafe seemed to be totally closed and locked up. This wasn’t the weather for messing around in boats, at least not for average mortals.

Boats by Ullswater at St Patricks Glenridding

After a walk back along the water’s edge to the Ullswater ‘Steamers’ jetty a cup of hot coffee was called for. As the light brightened again I thought this shot of the Lady Wakefield would also give a fair impression of a winter’s day by Ullswater.

The Lady Wakefield by Glenridding Pier

This area is great in any weather. You simply have to adjust to it, dress up warm and have appropriate footwear. People were walking in the hills from Glenridding, Patterdale and Hartsop as well as by the lake sides of Ullswater and Brothers Water. Based on three recent visits I put together a little site specifically about Ullswater in Winter. See it here.


Wanthwaite Crags near Keswick – Autumn and Winter

A very brief item today. I just noticed that I had two photographs taken from almost identical positions (close to Burns Farm at St Johns-in-the-Vale near Keswick) showing Wanthwaite Crags, one from last October and the other this past week. So here they are together, the contrast of Autumn and Winter colour in the Lake District.

Wanthwaite Crags in Autumn - near Keswick Cumbria

Wanthwaite Crags in Winter - near Keswick Cumbria

And while I’m looking at this area, here’s another of Wanthwaite Crags in the snow, seen from the Castlerigg stone circle. (Oh, and for the benefit of those who don’t know Castletrigg, I should say that the small circle shown here is the smaller one inside the main circle).

Wanthwaite Crags in snow - from Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick