Off to visit the ‘Bishop’

The Bishop Rock Lighthouse – a feat of Victorian engineering.

My son Stewart and I were half through a cooked breakfast towards the end of a week long holiday exploring almost every corner of the Isles of Scilly on what had been almost an exceptionally warm and sunny week. Staying at a B&B in Old Town on St Mary’s, the main island I was expecting a phone call, and sure enough, half way through my bacon and egg the call came through. I had been chosen to do a radio interview as ‘guest of the week’ on Radio Scilly of which I still have a copy of the recording. The three minute interview to what is probably quite a small audience mostly centred on our experiences during our stay on Scilly and one of the questions asked by the interviewer was ‘Which was my favourite island?’ Now that was a hard one to answer as each island had its own unique character. For example, Tresco was a neat and tidy island and was run as a business like manner and almost like a National Trust property and famed for its gardens whereas other islands were more natural and seemed that it was much harder to eke out a living insomuch that each islander had several jobs. In the end I had to settle for St Agnes as my favorite island as it was not only the most southwesterly but also the wildest and more exposed to those Atlantic gales.

I had planned our week carefully by visiting an island each day as the weather permitted and so St Agnes, Tresco, Bryher and St Martin took up four days which left two days to explore St Mary’s. The plan worked well with the first four days of almost perfect weather conditions of almost wall to wall sunshine before an Atlantic front made inroads in which we saw the other side of Scilly in rough weather. Even our ten mile walk around the coast of St Mary’s had to be curtailed due to driving rain and gales on the fifth day but we had a day in hand to complete this walk and anyway I wanted to explore some of the many archaeological remains in more depth.

So it was off to St Agnes on the first full day of our stay and with the weather perfect, it was an idea chance to combine our visit with a trip out to circumnavigate the
Bishop Rock Lighthouse. The day had dawned sunny and calm and just the weather for such a visit.

The Gilstone – one of the last scraps of land on the south western edge of The Scillies. It was scene of one of the worse naval disasters of the British Navy when in 1707 four ships commanded by Sir Cloudesley Shovell struck the rocks in this area and around 2000 lives were lost.

We had to go for it and set off for the short walk into Hugh Town, the island capitol after breakfast to board the almost full boat going out to the ‘Bishop’. We were away early and soon heading out passing the small uninhabited island of Annet then skirting the Western Rocks with the captain providing a history of the wildlife and ship wrecks. The Bishop Rock Lighthouse was always on the horizon, a sentinel in the bright morning sunshine. Having seen countless seals, puffins and the odd dolphin, we now made for the Bishop. As we drew closer I was impressed by the sheer size of this amazing feat of Victorian engineering. The present lighthouse was completed in 1858 and was built without loss of life and is 161 feet tall. Even today, being calm and sunny, there was a three metre swell around the rock. Having taken many photographs we set course for St Agnes and this would provide us with three hours to explore this small and most south westerly of the inhabited Isles of Scilly.

Heading out to the tiny island of Gugh across the tidal sandbar from St Agnes.

Lunch stop on Gugh. We were amazed by the intense strong sunlight on this day and a very quick way to get a tan.

In very strong sunshine we disembarked on St Agnes prior to lunch time. The neighbouring island of Gugh was still inked by the sand bar to St Agnes but we were told that the tide was coming in and by mid afternoon the sand bar would be covered. Stewart and I decided to head here first, and followed the narrow concrete road passing the popular Turk’s Head Pub to cross the sand bar. We walked around Gugh clockwise and on a rocky outcrop we stopped to have our picnic lunch. It was exceedingly bright with very strong sunlight and I had never known the light to be so strong. It also gave us a good tan by the end of the day. After lunch we continued our exploration of Gugh. There are two houses on the island and little else except for extensive areas of heather, low scrub and some pre-historical remains.

The Nag’s Head. There are many strange rock formations on the island. This is weathered granite which have been exposed to all the elements for thousands of years.

Pebble stacking seems to be a popular pastime on St Agnes. We saw hundreds of examples.

A lazy afternoon by the small lake at Periglis on St Agnes. The historic whitewashed lighthouse dominates the island.

Safely back across the tidal sand bar onto St Agnes we continued clockwise around the island. Paths were good as we headed to Wingletang Down at the southern end of the island. This area was more open with short cropped heather and many weird rock formations with fascinating names. These rocks are weathered granite and over millennium have been weathered into unusual shapes by the elements. The little beaches were good for building pebble towers of which I saw hundreds. A little off the path was a fascinating granite rock formation called the Nag’s Head. I made a short detour to photograph this. The ancient maze a little beyond around the coast was showing heavy signs of wear and tear. It wasn’t long before we reached Troy Town complete with its camp site. I would have imagined a bleak place in rough weather but today it was still and sunny. We ventured inside the island church at Lower Town beyond – a rather plain building with little interest. To the north, we walked beside Periglis, a large inlet before returning back to take the lane up to Middle Town, dominated by its gleaming white lighthouse. The lighthouse was one of the earliest in Britain but was still some five mile distance from Bishop Rock and was often too far away for ships to see before they foundered on the jagged rocks which surround the larger islands. A leisurely walk led us back down to the jetty. With some time to spare we headed to the Turk’s Head, Britain’s most south westerly pub for a cool drink in the beer garden before returning to the ferry to complete what had been a fairly magical day.

Rush hour on St Agnes – just another busy summer afternoon!

A day on Purple Mountain

The high point of the day, the 832 metre summit of Purple Mountain with a view towards the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks – but where is everyone!

Ranking the 21st highest mountain in Ireland, the 832 metre Purple Mountain is very much overshadowed by its more famous neighbour, the Macgillcuddy’s Reeks but an excursion to bag this peak plus it’s satellites is a rewarding day out. The mountain lies between Lough Leane and the deep gash known as The Gap of Dunloe. The mountain takes its name from the shivered slate found on its surface not that I had noticed any purple tinge.

From my base in Glengariff it was a fairly lengthy drive to get to the start point for this walk and I half expected the car park at Kate Kearney’s Cottage to be full. It was a nice surprise to see it far from full on this summer Saturday morning and furthermore there was free parking at this popular beauty spot – now you don’t see that in English Lake District! So who was this Kate Kearney that we have all heard about? My research showed that she was a local beauty who illegally distilled a poitin which was so strong it took seven times the amount of water to make it palatable. Poitin can only be made from cereals, grain, whey, sugar beet, molasses and potatoes.

Poitín was generally produced in remote rural areas, away from the interference of the law. A wash was created and fermented before the distillation began. Stills were often set up on land boundaries so the issue of ownership could be disputed. Prior to the introduction of bottled gas, the fire to heat the wash was provided by turf. Smoke was a giveaway for the Gardaí, so windy, broken weather was chosen to disperse the smoke. The still was heated and attended to for several days to allow the runs to go through. (source Wikipedia)

This path is marked on the Harvey’s Map but I just wondered how far it went. Thankfully it went almost all the way up the mountain.

On Tomies Mountain and the view towards Lough Leane. White fluffy clouds are mirrored off the lake surface on this still day.

It was 11am before I started out and I was pleased that I had done some research on how to gain access onto the mountain as there were houses and fields which bordered the eastern side of the road. With the help of my Harvey’s Map, a track ran east, a short distance north of Kate Kearney’s Cottage before turning south alongside a deer fence before abruptly stopping. Thankfully there was a reasonable path which carried on up the mountain side well beyond the point where it finished on the Harvey’s Map. I made steady progress up over the first spur before tackling Tomies Mountain 735 metres. Nearing its summit, I veered left to skirt around the base of a scree area. On the summit I stopped for lunch and had the place to myself. Lough Leane below me was like a mirror and little white clouds reflected off its surface.

On Tomies Mountain North and the view towards the Macgillycuddys Reeks

My route from Tomies Mountain North towards Purple Mountain. Easy high level walking.

Before heading for Purple Mountain I wanted to visit two satellite summits and first headed over the slightly higher Tomies South 757 metres before heading out and back eastwards to Shehy Mountain 762 metres. Passing Tomies South again I joined the ridge up to the top of Purple Mountain 832 metres. Being a Saturday, I was surprised to see no one around as I expected this to be a popular walk. By now it had clouded up and was turning out quite a dull afternoon but at least the cloud base was well above all the summits.
From the three cairns on the summit of Purple Mountain a stony path led southwest descending over a rocky lower summit then descending steeply down a steep rocky slope to the small Glas Lough. I was glad of the path beyond through this extremely rocky terrain and a further descent took me to the top of the Gap of Dunloe.

The steep way down towards the top of The Gap of Dunloe. Thankfully, I had a path to follow.

The road walk back can be the less interesting part of the walk but not in this case. In many places the road squeezes between house size boulders with towering cliffs above on either side.

I had always thought that the road through the gap was not open to the traffic and only used by jaunting cars but I noted that there were no restrictions to ordinary traffic.
I paused at the top of this impressive pass before heading north on the long winding road which descended through quite spectacular scenery. Often, the road walk back can be a bit mundane but not on this occasion. There were towering cliffs either side with rock falls and house size boulders littering the steep hillsides. Several people were out walking the road and thankfully there was little traffic. I was passed by a few jaunting cars as I headed back to Kate Kearney’s Cottage and reached my car by late afternoon. The convenient Coffee Pot Cafe was still serving hot meals and so I finished up in there for my main meal of the day.

The view up through The Gap of Dunloe from Black Lake. I was now nearing the end of a fantastic walk.

Group walk report 9th March

A happy bunch of slightly damp ramblers at Werneth Low

Despite the promise of dreadful weather, a group of eleven East Cheshire Ramblers set out for a walk from the Broadbottom/Chisworth border. Our route soon reached the Broad Mills Heritage Site and took us along the River Etherow. This was the location of textile mill buildings built and developed from 1802, and by 1824 included three large cotton spinning mills. The mills closed in 1860, re-opening in 1870 under different ownership for textile production and closing again in the late 1920’s. We followed the river in a south-westerly direction, until reaching a footbridge, here we left the river bank, to pick up the Cown Edge Way, eventually reaching Werneth Low Country Park, where we had our coffee break, whilst enjoying the stunning views. After our refreshments, we continued alongside the golf course before descending steadily to Etherow Country Park, where we re-joined the river from which the park gets its name. The park originated in the1820’s then in 1968 it became one of England’s first country parks, and now attracts over a quarter million visitors a year. Passing the weir, our path took us uphill again, through Ernocroft Wood to reach and cross the Glossop Road. We continued in a southerly direction along a path which is often muddy, but today, as hardcore had been laid making it was easier to navigate. Continuing our route via Ernocroft and Gird Lane, we reached a field path which took us to the Cown Edge Way again. This is a 28 mile generally U-shaped path, which starts in Hazel Grove and ends in Gee Cross. It takes in stretches of the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals before ascending to Cown Edge, which was our destination. On our way up, we passed some stones, which are known as Robin Hood’s Picking Rods. They are believed to be the bases of double cross shafts dating to the 9th century. They are used as boundary markers. According to tradition Robin Hood bent his bow between the rods. From here, it was an easy climb to the top, where again we were able to enjoy excellent views. Finally, we descended gradually via Hargate Hill, crossing the Glossop Road again and joining the Trans Pennine Trail for a short time to arrive back at our start point. A final de-brief was held over tea and cakes at Lymefield Garden Centre.

Our morning break on Werneth Low moments before the rain and ice pellets started.

Waiting for the rear of the party to catch up in Etherow Country Park.

Weir on the River Etherow in Etherow Country Park.

Robin Hood’s Picking Rods often passed on are walks in the area.

Cown Edge in not the best of weather. We ddin’t time the walk well over the summit as driving rain set in for awhile.

Group walk report 27th February

Pausing on a footbridge in the Goyt Valley during the warm spell of weather in February.

By Ann Thompson

A group of 12 ramblers set off from Pym Chair on a bright sunny morning with a cool breeze which turned into a very warm day. Those in shorts were correctly clad and others soon peeled off gaiters, fleeces etc. Pym chair is so named as there was until 1838 a rock chair at the location. Unfortunately it was broken up and used to mend the road. One explanation for the name is that Pym was a highwayman using the chair to look for packhorses laden with purchases and then send his men to plunder them.
The walk set off along the ridge to Windgather Rocks where we went below the rocks to look for cross bedding and other geological structures. Disappointingly there were no rock climbers so early in the morning. On descending into the Goyt valley, we passed two reservoirs. The first, Fernilee, was built in 1938, and beneath the water near to the dam are remains of a gunpowder store. The nearby mill suppling gunpowder for use against the Spanish Armada. The second reservoir, Errwood, was built in 1967 to supply the developing towns and villages in the area.
Having crossed the dam wall the walk continued south above the reservoir and then over high moor with plenty of shooting butts descending to cross Goyt’s Clough and rise steeply to reach Shining Tor at 559m. It was then a 2 mile ridge walk over Cats Tor back to Pym Chair. A superb day with spectacular views both in the distance and of the reservoirs.

The Middle three

Setting off along the track to Loch a Bhracin in perfect weather conditions.

In theory and with transport at either end, it would be just feasible to climb all the nine Munro’s in Fannichs in just one day but a few years ago I had planned a week based in Ullapool which included a plan to climb all the Munro’s in the Fannich’s as circular walks over three days but after a week of fairly wet weather with much low cloud I had only managed two of the nine Munro summits and then they were into the cloud. On that week many of my walks were low level.

Last May I was now back with NickWild and in much better weather we decided to bag the middle three Munro’s in the group. The other four eastern summits we would climb a few days later, also in very good weather. Like my previous visit, I parked in the same place and today the car park was already almost full.

The footbridge at the eastern end of Loch a Bhracin crossed on both outward and return routes.

From a high point on the A832 above Loch a’Bhraoin we took the good track down to the loch. Here I discovered that my camera battery was flat but it wasn’t worth going back to the car so I would just have to take poorer quality photographs all day on my mobile phone.
The day was already warm as we continued up alongside the upper reaches of the Abhainn Culieig and after awhile we had to cross this stream which was just about shallow enough to cross without removing walking boots. We lost the path further up and took a sketchy path far too close to the stream before realising that the path was well above us. Close to an attractive waterfall we cut up across rough ground to reach the intended path. We now followed this up to a rather windy col where we found some shelter for our morning break.

A waterfall on the Allt Breabaig with Sgurr Breac towering above. Most walkers don’t see this waterfall, but at this point we were following a sketchy path below our intended path.

Heading generally south southeast we next took the easiest route to the ridge south of Sgurr nan Each, the most southerly Munro in this middle group of three. Another party of three who had followed us up the valley but at a distance took a more direct route to the col at Cadna na Guite but from what we could see, it looked like quite a toil for them.
As for us, it was a straightforward ascent to reach the col at Cadha Dearg Mor. To the south lay the shapely Sgurr a’ Chadha Dheirg. Meanwhile we turned north up the easy southern slope of Sgurr nan Each which at 922 metres was our first Munro of the day. We took a leisurely break and the other party of three soon reached the summit. They were doing a very similar walk to us and we would pass one another several times during the day.

A morning break on the first Munro at Sgurr nan Each (923 metres) and now joined by another party doing a very similar walk to ours.

Nick and I set off first and headed north on the curving descent to Cadha na Guite and ahead lay a long ascent of around 280 metres to the summit of Sgurr nan Clach Geala which at 1093 metres is the second highest summit in the Fannich group. A path led up the mountainside and zigzagged most of the way. We took it easy pausing now and again in the warm sunshine. A massive snow block was lying precarious on the craggy slope to the right and was melting so quick that water was running off of it forming a small stream below. Eventually we reached the south eastern spur of the summit which meant an easy walk to the top. The other party were well behind us when we looked back.

The summit of Sgurr nan Clach Geala which at 1093 metres is the second highest summit in the Fannich group.

The summit which was crowned by the remains of a trig point was our lunch stop and we chose a perch facing west on this glorious sunny day. There was no need to rush as we had made good time and the bulk of our walk now would be downhill. Sitting on the summit we couldn’t have chosen a better day.

Our lunch time view from the summit of Sgurr nan Clach Geala looking towards An Teallach. We had started out from the right hand side of the woodland block which is visible middle right.

Over lunch the other party came by but carried on down the northern eastern slope. We soon followed and caught them up and overtook them as they stopped a long awhile in Coire Breabaig and chatted with another couple of walkers. We pressed on across more level terrain before making the easy ascent to Meall a’ Chrasgaidh which at 934 metres was the last of the three Munro’s we were bagging today.

Time for an afternoon break on the summit of our last Munro of the day – Meall a’ Chrasgaidh (934 metres).

After another break we decided to head off west descending the very easy slope. It was just like walking over a deep piled carpet and from the top to the path along the valley we managed it in just 38 minutes, – a descent of almost 600 metres.
We now followed the correct path back and re-crossing the Abhainn Cuileig at the same point as before. From this point, a good path and later track led back to the car. It wasn’t even 4pm and it had been a day where we had made exceedingly good progress in perfect weather conditions.

Rounding off a perfect day with this sunset over Loch Broom as views from our self catering establishment at Ullapool.

A journey through time

Repton Market Cross marks the centre of the village.

Repton is a fascinating place and has a long history. Today this large village is dominated by its famous school. Founded in the 1500’s the school was built following the bequest of Sir John Port of Etwall who died in 1557 on condition that students prayed daily for his family souls. Repton Priory was to be the location for the new school in 1559 but for the following century there were lawsuits between the local landowner and the school which were only resolved out of court in the middle of the 1600’s.
The church of St Wystan is famous for its Saxon Crypt which is said to be one of the most precious survivals of Anglo-Saxon architecture in England. The crypt was forgotten about for many centuries and was accidently rediscovered when workmen digging a grave stumbled upon it. It is thought that three Royal Saxon King’s were buried here.

For my walk I started out by visiting Repton Church as I was keen to take a look at the crypt. Being a August bank holiday, the school was closed and hence the village relatively quiet.

I headed out of the village on the Milton Road and soon turned left on a side road before taking a path east over Askew Hill where I went in search of the trig point which I found easy to locate. The path east however ran alongside a field of tall maize before cutting across another field of even taller maize with a path only just wide enough to get along. I was just glad that this crop wasn’t wet. I next had some road walking east to Windmill Hill where I turned left a little too soon and had to back track before taking the correct path towards Anchor Church.

Anchor Church is not so much a church but a series of caves hewn into the cliff face and once thought to be the home of a hermit.

This path later ran below a low cliff which was once the southern bank of the old course of the River Trent. Further on, the cliffs were higher and directly overlooked the river. The downside here was the dense growth of Himalayan Balsam. I wanted to explore Anchor Church which is not really a church but a series of small caves hewn out of the conglomerate sandstone rock. The name is thought to derive from the Anchorite hermit St Hardulph who lived here in the 6th or 7th centuries. In the early eighteen hundreds the caves were enlarged by the then owner.

Setting off once more I had to make a short but steep ascent up a slope to the cliff top and walked along the edge with a steep drop to my left before briefly descending to the river again. Beyond, a pleasant path led to the road at the small village of Ingleby.

Poppies line the edge of a field south of Ingleby with a distant view across the Trent Valley.

From here I set off south towards Ticknall on pleasant well defined paths with some views back over the Trent Valley. On the way I passed Knowle Hill, once an Italianesque pleasure garden which was created around 1700 and was designed to blend in with the local landscape. Today only a cottage and the summerhouse survive and the premises were acquired by the Landmark Trust in the early 1990’s and partially restored.
After crossing a few more fields full of swallows darting here and there and passing through woodland blocks I arrived at Ticknall. A brand new wooden seat was a good spot to stop for lunch.

A display board in Ticknall depicting a wealth of historical information.

Ticknall was originally the estate village of the nearby Calke Abbey and the area has a long history of brick-making. Afterwards, I headed into the village passing on the way one of the ‘Ticknall Taps’ which the village is famed for. Around the village is fifteen such water spouts, each are an identical cast iron green spout with a lion emblem on them. They were part of a public water supply installed on the instruction of Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe in 1914. I decided on this occasion to visit the village church which was built around 1842. In the churchyard are the ruins of the medieval church which fell in to disrepair and rather than restoring it, the Victorians built a new church and blew the old church up leaving just a few ruins among the gravestones.

So what do you do with a redundant medieval church in the churchyard – well the Victorians simply blew the old church up leaving these remains.

One of the unique village pumps in Ticknall.

Heading northwest from this fascinating village, I set out on the National Forest Way. I had walked this path in the opposite direction a year earlier and today I paused here and there to pick a few blackberries. With a colourful patchwork of the ploughed fields, the afternoon had turned quite grey and it felt that summer was over as I trekked through pleasant countryside and later crossing a road south of the village of Milton. I continued west on a field path before turning north passing historic Ridgeway Farm and its listed dovecote on the outskirts of Repton. At the Mount Pleasant Inn, I turned left down a hidden enclosed path before turning right on a path through an overgrown area and passing a fine apple tree on the way with much fruit ready to pick. Another hidden path was followed into the village to complete a very rewarding walk.

Gently rolling countryside and patchwork of colours is a typical scene in this area.

‘Take your pick’. This apple tree in a long gone orchard was loaded down with fruit as I neared Repton towards the end of my walk.

I am repeating this walk on the 6th April with one or two small variations so why not join me on a walk full of fascinating history. In Ticknall we will divert to visit the old lock-up and will view Sheffield House which is not all that it seems.

Sheffield House in Ticknall. Find out why this house is not all it seems when you come on my walk.

Curious Lakeland pillars

Haweswater Siting Pillar on Artle Crag. One of five which lie in a perfectly straight line between Haweswater and Longsleddale.

A few miles north of Kendal lie one of those less frequented valleys in the Lake District. Turning off the A6 near Garnett Bridge you are soon in another world of narrow lanes and high hillsides. This is Longsleddale but to get to the upper end involves a somewhat tortuous drive along four miles of very narrow lanes with few passing places so you hope you are not going to meet a tractor. Thankfully on this occasion I had a car following me and its driver seemed in no hurry to get past. As it turned out he was just another walker who parked up at the road head close by me.

I had long planned a hill walk from the head of Longsleddale but owing to poor weather earlier in the week with extensive hill cloud I was thankful that I had re-scheduled the walk until today.

I needed to be early to get parked up at Sadgill as parking I knew was limited and indeed it was as several cars were parked there already. There is limited parking beyond the end of the road but this is along an extremely rocky track which wouldn’t do the car any good.

A secluded barn at the isolated farm at Stockdale close to the start of my walk.

Setting off back down the lane a short distance, I soon took an enclosed path up to the attractive farm at Stockdale. At this stage I was unsure if there was a way onto the open access land and I was pleased to see new signs making the route straightforward. Also in my favour was the good quad bike route up onto the open fell which made the going much easier through the bracken. I wanted to take a look at the Haweswater Survey pillars which run in a straight line from Longsleddale to Haweswater Reservoir. They were built in 1926 on the line of the aqueduct that supplies water bound for Manchester.

The second Siting Pillar above Longsleddale which I dropped back down to for a closer look. I had climbed too high on this warm morning to visit the first pillar which is situated well below the pillar seen here.

The day had already turned warm and no need for a jacket early on. I ascended quickly and soon found myself far too high to take a look at the first survey pillar. A small diversion downhill took me to the next pillar. Back on track, I now followed a path cum quad bike track which led uphill towards Grey Crag which made the access easy going all the way to the 638 metre summit. On top I paused for my morning break. To the northwest, Tarn Crag was crowned with another survey pillar but to get there I had to cross an area known as Greycrag Tarn, which was not so much a lake but a marshy col marked with several ominous marsh symbols on the Ordnance survey map. All paths on the ground tended to lead towards the line of the fence and so with the dry weather I chose this route. The so called ‘tarn’ had dried out insomuch I could have crossed the area in town shoes. The path continued, following the fence to the top of the ridge before veering left and making for the summit of Tarn Crag (664 metres). The survey pillar was located a little west of the summit and was a much bigger structure than the first survey pillar.
To reach my third summit – Selside Pike, I next descended to the col before ascending steeply up Selside Brow. Part way up I left the path and crossed a wall and fence and made out across rough country to the third survey pillar near to Artle Crag. The going wasn’t exactly easy under foot and I had to ascend higher than hoped to avoid long vegetation.
To reach Selside Pike, I followed a path which led over the un-named summit at 673 metres before later making a short ascent to the 655 metre summit.

The siting pillar on Tarn Crag lies on the western edge of the summit.

It was now time to back track and head to the highest summit of the day at Branstree (713 metres). It was an easy walk with a good path the whole way. I had planned to have lunch on the summit but by now the wind had become too strong to make it comfortable. The summit is unusual as it is marked by a Ordnance Survey concrete ring – the first that I had come across. In the whole country there are just nineteen such markers, most of which are in this area.

Not your usual trig point. This is an Ordnance Survey Concrete Ring, – one of only nineteen in the country. Just as well it wasn’t covered by snow!

I decided to descend and have lunch at Gatescarth Pass. It was an easy descent except for the last little bit across a rather boggy col. The top of the pass was also breezy but I found a northwest facing spot out of the worse of the wind. Thundery weather had been forecast for later in the day but for now there was no sign of it. With time on my side I could make the walk back at a leisurely pace. I joined a track which initially descended steeply to Brownhowe Bottom passing on the way the disused Wrengill Slate Quarry. The quarry is close to the north eastern limit of green slate workings in the Lake District. This type of rock stretches across the southern Lake District to the Duddon Valley.

A lazy afternoon in Longsleddale. The track wanders along this peaceful valley. On this sweltering afternoon the peace was briefly shattered by a low flying jet.

I pressed on at a leisurely pace beside the upper reaches of the River Sprint and I had to stop the temptation of an afternoon paddle in one of the inviting pools. Below the Buckbarrow Crag the track levelled out but there were numerous twists and turns to get back to the car. Along this section I witnessed a low fly pass by a training jet which briefly shattered the peace and quiet of this hot and sunny summer afternoon.

Drama on the Quantock’s

The parish church of St Mary’s at Kilve, the first of three churches visited on this walk.

Cast your mind back to those few balmy days of late February which now seem a distant memory. It just so happened that I was down in the West Country which gave me the opportunity to walk another section of the Somerset Coast Path. Having started in Bristol a couple of years ago on my frequent visits to the southwest, I have been walking the coastline down towards Minehead and to date I had reached Kilve Pill which meant with just two more walks I would achieve my goal. During much of this time the newly opened coast path had been closed due to a rock fall at St Audries but according to the up to date website it had now re open.

I had two plans;- If the weather was dull and grey I could have walked from Watchet to Minehead along the coast then caught the bus back, or secondly if the weather was fine I could park up in Kilve and walk down to the coast to rejoin where I left off before Christmas at Kilve Pill and follow the coast to Watchet and return over the Quantock Hills making it a fairly long walk, but feasible on a fine winter’s day. As the weather was set fine, I chose the latter so what could go wrong? As we shall see, this walk didn’t go to plan.

Parking up at the Village Hall in Kilve I opted to take the field path running past East Wood down to the village church at the remains of Kilve Chantry. Here I followed the track down to the coast at Kilve Pill to pick up where I had got to on my last walk in the area late last year.
Setting out west on the coast I immediately came across two signs, one saying the path west was closed due to a rock fall which I took as being out of date information but secondly, metal signs stating that the coastal path was impassable a couple of hours either side of high tide at two locations;- firstly at St Audries Bay and secondly at Helwell Bay prior to Watchet, both places that I would be passing.

What a place for my morning break with just the sound of the waves crashing on the shore and the warm February sunshine on your back.

I soon stopped where there were some seats for my morning break overlooking the coast with the sound of breaking waves. For now, I opted to press on west along the coastal path but it was soon obvious from the cliff top path that the tide was well up and still coming in.
I followed the coastal path west over Quantock’s Head but a half mile further west, it was obvious that the tide would be too high to stay with the coast as the sea was already up to the base of the cliffs looking west to the headland at Blue Ben. I would need to turn inland and do this coastal walk on another occasion and check the tide times prior on the next time that I intended doing this walk.

This is the point where I decided to leave the coast path. With the tide coming in my route ahead would have been blocked. The tide is already up to the base of the cliff at Blue Ben in the distance.

I now followed a concessionary path south and later crossed the A39 to join a minor lane up to a point where a cottage was being thatched. I chatted with the owner before pressing on to skirt the northern edge of the open access on the Quantocks. The path eventually led around to West Quantoxhead but ran just above the busy A39 and hence it was rather noisy. The path route also didn’t agree with my Ordnance Survey map despite having the latest Explorer edition of the map.
At West Quantoxhead I opted to divert down to take a look at the attractive church which despite the busy road nearby is set in a sunny fold of the Quantock Hills. I took a look inside this small Victorian church which is dedicated to St Ethelreda or St Audrey – take your pick.
Heading southwest I took the road into West Quantoxhead standing in for a fire engine racing to somewhere. In the village I turned left uphill on a minor lane. Nearing the car park at Staple Plain I discovered that not all was well as ahead of me the moorland was on fire.

A pause to visit the church at West Quantoxhead on this warm February day. An idyllic spot but is marred by the A39 which runs just behind the church.

Reaching the car park I stopped for an early lunch on a bench. My plan had been to get to the top of Beacon Hill before stopping for lunch. Over lunch I observed the smoke billowing up on the moor ahead of me. Going over Beacon Hill was certainly out of the question and a stiff breeze was fanning the smoke from the southeast. I pondered over lunch which way I needed to go. I could still get through to Bicknoller Post on the western side as that seemed the only route free of smoke then skirt around to the south of the moorland fire but if I was forced off the hill I would be on the ‘wrong’ side of the Quantocks to my car.

Leaving the car park at Staple Plain, more fire engines soon turned up. For now I kept an eye on the fire burning over to my left. Reaching Bicknoller Post I was now southwest of the fire which was burning on Longstone Hill. My only real option was descend through Sheppard’s Combe and later Hodder’s Combe. It was a lovely sunny afternoon as I descended through the peaceful valley in the warm February sunshine but I noted that the dead bracken was tinder dry but here I was out of the cool breeze blowing over the hill top. The place was deserted and it was a pleasant walk down through the woodlands. At the foot I briefly took a wrong turn and had to back track. I wanted to make a short diversion to visit the church at Holford. Much of the building today dates from the 16th century but there has been a church on this site for over a thousand years. I took a look inside before sitting in the peaceful churchyard for my afternoon break. Back in the village I took a side path which dropped down to a footbridge which spanned a stream in Holford Glen. Beyond, I joined the Coleridge Way briefly before taking a field path down to Pardlestone Lane which I followed down to Kilve and passing an activity centre on my left on the way.

Rounding off the day at the historic St Mary’s Church at Holford. I sat awhile in the churchyard in the warm February sunshine with only the sound of ravens in the trees.

The Coleridge Way is a fifty mile long recreational path way marked with a quill pen which runs from Nether Stowey in Somerset to Lynmouth in North Devon. The path runs through areas which have connection with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and passes through some attractive villages in deepest Somerset and well off the tourist trails so this may be worthy of walking when I get the time.
I had completed a good day’s walk in excellent weather but not the walk I had set out to do.

Tour of Stockport Air Raid Shelters Friday 10th May at 2 p.m.

Tour of Stockport Air Raid Shelters Friday 10th May at 2 p.m.

Demand has been so great that an extra tour has been organised to run simultaneously, but in the opposite direction. Consequently there are places again available.

Age 65 and over £5.75 pp.
Under 65 £7 pp.

To reserve a place contact Brian Griffiths at

The other London Airport

Slipping out of Kirkwall Harbour early in the morning en route to the Island of Eday.

Poring over maps as I so often do, I conjure up a ‘3 D’ picture in my mind of a certain area and one such area had long been the northern tip of the island of Eday in the Orkney Islands. A prow of land shaped like the bow of a ship culminating at the trig point at Red Head. I have long been intrigued by this location and promise myself that it was high on my visit list.

Eday is just ten square miles and has a population of around 130 inhabitants and is the ninth largest island in the Orkney archipelago. The island lies around fifteen miles north of the Orkney capital Kirkwall.

A distant view towards Red Head at the northern tip of Eday.

Planning a day trip to Eday with my son Stewart back in 2013 during a week long trip to the Orkney Islands meant we were restricted to Wednesday due to the ferry timetable and so I was banking on good weather. My initial plan was not to take the car to the island but with the weather being somewhat doubtful and the island having little if any shelter, it was worth spending the extra few pounds to make a day of it and if needed have the shelter of a car if the weather took a turn for the worse.

The ferry meant an early start as we had to be in Kirkwall by 06.30am for the rather long trip via the island of Stronsay. It was after 9am by the time we were disembarking on Eday and then in a rain squall. We drove north up the island spine road, the empty B9063. This was an area that even Google street level mapping hadn’t reached! Our main aim was to get a good walk in but parking proved a problem as most lane endings finished at a farm entrance. In the end we found a small car park at the bird hide by Mill Loch. It was time for our morning break as another rain squall moved through but the weather looked good after that. The Ranger for the island turned up and we chatted awhile. She was surprised to see ‘tourists’ as she estimated that we were about the eighth tourist this year.

Stephens Gate, a natural arch on the eastern side of Eday was passed early in our walk.

Stewart and I set off on our walk along the lane towards the hamlet of Hammerhill to visit the island shop. I am always interested to see how well stocked these places are and the variety of goods on the shelves. As well as the range of foods these shops are like mini department stores. It was now for some serious walking as we took the track behind the hamlet towards the coast. The track degenerated into a path which later disappeared altogether but at least wooden marker post kept us on the correct route. Turning north we followed the coast passing Stephens Gate, a natural arch on the low cliffs. Further on we passed a couple of sea stacks called The Castles where a stout barbwire fence separated us from the cliff edge and so views were limited. We had to turn away from the coast here before a right turn along a grassy track to the deserted B9063. A left and right turn took us along another lane via Carrick Farm to the historic Carrick House. This was the location where John Gow, the notorious Orkney Pirate luck ran out. His life started as a deck hand on one of the many ships which plied out of Stromness but on one trip, and with bad feelings running high, he and others mutinied and killed the captain and other senior officers before renaming the ship ‘Revenge’ and carrying out piracy on the high seas and so Orkney has its own ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ story. John Gow took his pickings by raiding prosperous houses on the coast but came unstuck when he chose to take the rich pickings form Carrick House in 1725. His ship ran aground and he was overpowered by staff and islanders. His fate was that he was tried in London for his crimes and along with other accomplishes was hanged. Today Carrick House overlooks Calf Sound in much more peaceful times.

Carrick House overlooks Calf Sound and the location where the notorious pirate John Gow’s luck finally ran out.

The Calf Sound Lighthouse towards the northern end of Eday set on the edge of a aquamarine sea.

Heading north, Stewart and I now followed the shore with a brief stop at the Calf of Eday Lighthouse. The path ahead petered out and so we made our way uphill to follow a better path along the ridge to the trig point at Red Head. Despite its modest 70 metres above sea level, the headland afforded far views to the islands of Westray, Sanday and North Ronaldsay set in a aquamarine sea. Thankfully we had picked a perfect day and we were being blessed with sunshine. The headland as such was surrounded with a new and stout barb wire fence and not easy to cross, but I ventured out to the headland not that you could see much of the sandstone cliffs.

Red Head at the northern end of Eday. It may be only 70 metres above sea level but the views on this day were magnificent.

Setting off once more we followed the coast south westwards before turning towards Vinquoy Hill by which time it was turning into a really fine sunny afternoon. As we followed the hillside along to the summit of Vinquoy Hill the views across Calf Sound were spectacular and we could hardly believe our luck to get such good weather. Along the ridge of Vinquoy Hill we came to Vinquoy Chambered Cairn. We could crawl inside to the main chamber of this perfectly preserved chambered cairn. A short walk took us downhill across one or two areas of boggier ground but thankfully with board walks to reach the Stone of Setter, Orkney’s tallest standing stone at 4.5 metres. Finally it was back along the road to the car then to spend the rest of the day exploring the rest of the island including a shorter walk around War Ness at the southern end of the island and up to Ward Hill, which at a modest 101 metres is the highest point on the island.

Vinquoy Hill Chambered Cairn which you can crawl into.

The Setter Stone which at 4.5 metres tall is the highest standing stone on the Orkney Islands.

Heading back down the spine of the island there was another place worthy of a visit. The tiny airport on the island is just so located at a spot called the Bay of London and hence is named London Airport. So imagine this London Airport with free parking, absolutely deserted, and no aircraft.

I managed to get to the ‘airside’ without being spotted by security. This is the other London Airport.

A wooden direction indicator on Ward Hill near the southern end of Eday.

Returning to the ferry terminal it had been a great day out to a place in the British Isles where few venture.