Tag Archives: UK

Great Gable: Grand Finale of Summer 2022! ❤️

With autumn champing at the bit to arrive in full force, so this past Friday, September 16 was like a Grand Finale of my Lake District summer! Blessed with incredibly clear views and sunshine all day – though also a very strong cold northerly wind and -5°C wind chill – so it was to be THE day for iconic Great Gable & its more humble sibling, Green Gable!  

Great Gable summit 899 m (2,949 ft)

From Troutbeck Bridge, it would have taken just as long to drive to a nearer start point, and my brother had said it was possible to walk all the way – and so instead I started very early, it was only just getting light. Parked up at Dungeon Ghyll Old Hotel, Great Langdale at 6:00 am and so I set off, walking via Mickleden, up Rossett Gill, where the sun was coming up behind me over the Langdale Pikes …..

Mickleden

To Angle Tarn, below Bowfell….

Angle Tarn with Bowfell

Then Esk Hause, down to Sprinkling Tarn where several people were wild camping, and so to Sty Head by 9:30 am, where there’s a permanent stretcher box for the Mountain Rescue Team. It was too cold to stop walking, but there was beautiful sunshine all day, and it even felt warm when sheltered from the biting cold wind!  Overhead were hundreds of honking geese flying south in V-shaped formations all morning – they had a tailwind to help them, but it must have been cold up there!  

Stretcher Box at Sty Head

From Sty Head, I followed Wainwright’s recommendation of going round the circuit of The Gable Girdle, which was really fun! Yes honestly, it was fantastic and is highly recommended, and only a bit scary in places where the path is not clear! 😱😱 It winds across and around the mountain under the famous rock-climbing crags with iconic names, Kern Knotts, Great Hell Gate, Great Napes, Little Hell Gate, White Napes and across the scree slopes, with steep and beautiful views down to Wasdale Head and Wastwater. 

The path goes all the way round via Beck Head and then along under Gable Crag to Windy Gap, where I turned right to clamber up to the summit of Great Gable 899 m (2,949 ft), just in time for lunch at 12:30 pm.  

Great Gable summit with views north

The summit has a famous War Memorial, dedicated in 1924, and there is a short service held up there every year, whatever the weather, on Remembrance Day.

Every mountain summit view was clear in all directions, and there were also distant views of Windermere, Yorkshire, Pennines, Isle of Man & Scotland. I met lots of interesting people too, everyone has a story to tell, including a couple from Alaska who started reading the Wainwright books during lockdown and then decided to do all the 214 Wainwrights – they’ve now done over 50 of them, and reckon they need another 6 trips to the UK to complete them all! These are the views of the NW fells of Grassmoor, Haystacks, Kirk Fell etc…

Then to the summit of Green Gable 801 m (2,628 ft) with its steep grassy slopes, so lovely after all that rock and scree. Also great views, especially down to Ennerdale, and far off to Scotland….

Then I started my descent, down Aaron Slack and back to Sty Head at 2:30 pm to complete the Gable Girdle circuit….

Sty Head Tarn – my path goes up from there to Esk Hause

And then retraced my steps for the return trip to Great Langdale – this was the view of Great Gable and Green Gable when I turned back round!

Great Gable (left) and Green Gable (right) from Sprinkling Tarn

And so back on the path…

Esk Hause

From Esk Hause, most people on the return section at the same time were coming from a day spent on Scafell Pike, which is the same direction, but they had cut off at Esk Hause and ascended from there. And so, there were many of us coming down Mickleden to Dungeon Ghyll – we all arrived back there about 5:30 pm, tired but oh so happy!  

Sheepfold at Mickleden

Total: 25.14 km, 1,583 m altitude gain, walking time 8 hours, total time 11+ hours, total amount of scree walked across: immeasurable!

The famous Gable Girdle scree!

Wainwright: “Great Gable is a favourite of all fellwalkers, and first favourite with many.  Right from the start of one’s apprenticeship in the hills, the name appeals magically. It is a good name for a mountain, strong, challenging, compelling, starkly descriptive, suggesting the pyramid associated with the shape of the mountain since early childhood… In appearance too, Great Gable has the same appealing attributes.  The name fits well.  This mountain is strong yet not sturdy, masculine yet graceful.  It is the undisputed overlord of the group of hills to which it belongs…” 

Herdwick Sheep on Great Gable Girdle, with Wastwater behind

It was a truly spectacular day marking the end of summer for me, and I’m full of gratitude for all the mountains climbed and places visited. For now though, there’s definitely a chill in the air ~ autumn is very definitely here! 🍁

👑 A Country in Mourning for Queen Elizabeth II ❤️

St. Martin’s Church, Bowness-on-Windermere, with the Union Jack flying at half-mast

It’s been quiet on the waterfront at Bowness-on-Windermere this week, as the Lake District starts to show signs of autumn, with cooler mornings, early morning mists lingering over the lake, and darker evenings.  After a summer of endless visitors, many of whom, come rain or shine, could be found eating ice-cream on the Windermere waterfront at Bowness, suddenly the waterfront seems emptier.  The new school term has started, so there’s fewer families, but those who are still here seem quieter.  It’s been that way now for several days.  Since the queen died last Thursday, the tone is more sombre, serious, subdued.   

St. Martin’s

Just next to the Windermere waterfront is the local parish church, St. Martin’s, where the Union Jack now flies at half-mast.  Lots of people visit this church on any normal day, and since the queen’s death, the lady on duty in the church told me that there’s been even more visitors than usual.  People coming in to offer prayers, light a candle, bring some flowers, write their condolences or just sit awhile.   She was offering leaflets in a variety of languages, including Japanese.  Windermere has become a very international tourist destination in the last few years, and people from all countries and all faiths can be seen walking along the main street, queuing for boat trips, shopping, eating and enjoying the sights and sounds of the Lake District.   

St. Martin’s entrance

Last Tuesday, I was in the nearby village of Grasmere, famous for being the home of William Wordsworth and his family, they’re buried in the churchyard.  Many people were visiting that day, including in the church, while outside they were lining up to buy the famous Grasmere Gingerbread from the old school next door….

On Saturday, two days after the queen’s death, I was there again, and the village seemed eerily quiet.  The outdoor cafes and coffee shops were open and had people in them, but there wasn’t the lively atmosphere of people on holiday enjoying themselves. The Union Jack on the church was at half-mast, while inside the church was a steady stream of visitors coming in to sign the condolence book at the front.

The last time I remember being in the UK for a period of mourning for one of the royal family was when Princess Diana died, 25 years ago, on August 31, 1997. I can still remember where I was when I heard the news, and the sense of shock and bewilderment that lasted for weeks afterwards as the country tried to come to terms with her sudden death.  Like many of my friends of the same age and background, I’m fairly ambivalent about the role of the monarchy ~ as the elite of the land enjoy all the benefits of power, prestige, wealth and glory, the rest of us have to live with what’s left, resulting in huge inequality, injustice, poverty, discrimination and more. 

Troutbeck Village Institute with the flag at half-mast

In 1997, I had just returned to the UK having spent 7 years working with the Church Mission Society (CMS) teaching in Anglican Church-run primary schools in Tanzania, and was fairly convinced of the evils of the British Empire, which in reality was one big power grab but portrayed as intended to bring development and civilization.  Being associated with CMS it’s difficult to avoid our historical connection to the British Empire, but as in all things, it’s never quite so black and white ~ and the Anglican Church in Tanzania was (and is) clearly doing much valuable outreach and mission work, including through their primary schools. 

St. Martin’s

Though we grew up in 2 different worlds, Princess Diana and I were both born in the same year, 1961, so we grew up at the same time, in the same country, and when her marriage to Prince Charles started to fall apart, it was impossible not to feel some sympathy for her. She had so much media scrutiny, so much criticism from the royal family, and then her death robbed those 2 boys of their mother at such a young age, in such tragic circumstances, their every step and every emotion so publicly watched by millions.  The royal family did not come out of it well, and I’d had more than enough of them. 

St. Martin’s

But us women of the world must unite, and there’s no denying the queen herself was an incredible woman, serving the country for 70 years with grace, humility and a devotion to duty that is hard to find fault with.  When we saw images of the queen seated alone at the funeral of Prince Philip last year, it was painfully hard to accept, and yet thousands of other people had to endure the same. The pandemic brought Britain to its knees, and since coming back from Taiwan 2 months ago, I’ve listened to stories first hand from those who suffered and are still suffering.  There is still so much pain and anger, much of it directed at the government.  This previous government leadership may have taken credit for the vaccines and for providing financial support during the pandemic, but then came news of partying at No. 10 the night before Prince Philip’s funeral, as No. 10 totally disregarded the rules which they had set and which the rest of the country, including the queen and royal family, were expected to follow.  

St. Martin’s roof

So, although I’m not entirely happy with the monarchy as such, I also know the appeal – and therefore the danger – of electing charismatic populist leaders who make wild promises they can’t fulfill and end up bringing division and instability to the nation.  And so I find myself asking would it really be any better if we had a president instead?

St. Martin’s roof

I am moved by my friends in the Taiwan Episcopal Church, including the diocesan youth leaders, many of whom have shared photos on social media since the queen’s death, exhorting us to pray for Queen Elizabeth II and her family.  Several have also shared in detail about the role of the queen as the supreme governor of the Church of England.  To be part of the Anglican Church worldwide is to acknowledge the historic role of the kings and queens of England in the church through the centuries.  My Episcopal friends in Taiwan know far more than I do about Henry VIII and the problems of his succession that led to the establishment of the Church of England.  I just try to remember all 6 of his poor wives, 3 of them called Catherine, and most of whom met an untimely end just because they couldn’t produce a son and heir.   What a legacy for a church to inherit. 

St. Martin’s

So while, historically, the strength of the Anglican Church worldwide can in part be attributed to its association with the British Empire, that doesn’t apply in Taiwan.  Taiwan was never part of the British Empire, instead it was a colony of Japan from 1895-1945, and the Japanese Anglican Church in Taiwan at the time was only open to Japanese people, not the Taiwanese.  You might have thought that all that association with empire would have put Taiwan people off from joining the Anglican Church.  Apparently not.  And you might have thought that all that association with empire would have reduced the size and importance of the Anglican Church in those countries that were once part of the British Empire.  Certainly, when I visit such countries, it is difficult to know what to do with all that colonial guilt and shame that sometimes hangs in the air if I say I’m from the UK, or work for CMS.  Let’s hope and pray that our new king, Charles III, plus world leaders and coming generations face up to the challenges, get on with bringing out the truth and start to right the wrongs of the past. 

St. Martin’s

In Grasmere Church this past week, I was struck by the fact that on the church bookstall, apart from books about local history, the only other books on sale were a series that included one called ‘Sayings of the Buddha.’  If I tell my Taiwan Episcopal Church friends this, I know they will ask me why.  Why, indeed?  In Taiwan, where so many follow Buddhism, Taoism and folk religion, many do indeed take comfort from the sayings of the Buddha and try to live their lives accordingly.  We respect all religions, but we also have many in our churches in Taiwan who have become Christians from a Buddhist background, and they talk about finding hope and joy in the promise of eternal life through Christ. Many, moved by attending Christian funerals, see the difference that the Christian faith makes when facing death. 

Jesus Church, Troutbeck

On Thursday afternoon last week, I gave the first talk of my home leave to a group of retired people in Troutbeck, including showing them some photos of our Taiwan Episcopal Church ancestor memorial liturgy, and I talked about our eternal hope in facing death.  Only a few hours after the talk was over, we heard the sad news of the queen’s death. Since then, many church leaders have spoken of that promise of eternal life to all who follow Christ as an important part of the queen’s own deep personal Christian faith. 

Jesus Church, Troutbeck

Who could not be moved by the events of this week, as we watch the royal family and the whole country grieve the loss of a much-loved mother, grandmother and queen; hers was a life of dedication, duty and humble service right to the end. One local business owner told me today she would be closing her shop on Monday for the queen’s funeral, not because she is a royalist, but out of respect for a woman who took up the role given her and poured her whole life into serving her people, right up until the very end.  In her shop window is Paddington Bear, who has also appeared much on TV in the past few days, in a lovely sketch with the queen made for the Platinum Jubilee earlier in the summer.   In honour of the queen, therefore, I am taking marmalade sandwiches up the fells with me each time and thinking of her – and Paddington – as I eat them. 

Grasmere Church

As we remember Queen Elizabeth II in this national week of mourning, let us give thanks for her life, faith and service to others, including the times when she made us smile.  May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

St. Martin’s Church, Bowness

‘Majestic’ is a word not just used of the queen, but also of Britain’s national tree, the oak, chosen as a symbol of endurance and strength. This one is in Grasmere….

And as it’s autumn so the oak trees here are now covered in acorns – containing the seeds – symbols of the next generation.

Our next generation of the royal family need our prayers too, for wisdom, discernment, courage and strength. The responsibilities they face are huge, with the whole future direction of the monarchy and that of the Commonwealth at stake. And so we pray for King Charles III, Princes William and Harry, their wives and children. And we pray too for ourselves, our nation and all nations, and our world. From the leaflet published by St. Martin’s Church, Bowness-in-Windermere in honour of the queen’s death, “Help us to work together so that truth and justice, harmony and fairness flourish among us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen.

Updated Sunday September 18, 2022: These are 2 other churches in the area, Kendal Parish Church, Cumbria’s largest parish church – and one of the widest churches in England with 5 aisles, where people have been laying flowers outside the church as well….

And St. Paul’s Church, Grange-Over-Sands, where the town flag flies at half-mast next to the church….

Many churches, including Grange are holding their own special commemorative services…

In Jesus Church, Troutbeck, we sang the first verse of the National Anthem, ‘God save the King’ at the end of our Sunday service today. It has been quite a week, and we pray for the Royal Family and the whole country preparing for the queen’s funeral tomorrow, and especially for King Charles III as he takes over his official duties and responsibilities as king.

Summer in the Lake District: Making the Most of those Mountains!

Summer in the Lake District certainly has given us a wide variety of weather. When the weather’s good and there’s a free day, I’m making the most of it all and exploring the Lake District mountains, sometimes with family members, sometimes on my own, but never totally alone since people are always so friendly on the tops, sharing news about where they’ve walked from and where they’re going! Below are some of the highlights of the last few weeks…

Iconic View from Three Tarns on Bowfell to Scafell (left) and Scafell Pike (right)

Wednesday August 17: A memorable day on the rough, rugged and very rocky roof of England! England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, the very top!  I got there at 12 noon surrounded by greyness – in the rocks, clouds and views.  The path to the summit over Ill Crag and Broad Crag involves crossing over big boulders. Wainwright on Scafell Pike: “Roughness and ruggedness are the necessary attributes (of a mountain), and Scafell Pike has these in greater measure than other high ground in the country…Crags are in evidence on all sides, and big areas of the upper slopes lie devastated by a covering of piled-up boulders, a result of the volcanic upheavals that laid waste to the mountain during its formation. The landscape is harsh, even savage, and has attracted to itself nothing of romance or historical legend. There is no sentiment about Scafell Pike.”

I went up Bowfell too: “Rank Bowfell among the best half-dozen!” (Wainwright)…

Bowfell Butress and Angle Tarn

From Dungeon Ghyll Old Hotel, Great Langdale to Bowfell 902m (2,959 ft) via Oxendale & Hell Ghyll, then along the ridge to Esk Pike 885 m (2,904 ft), Great End 910 m (2,990 ft) and finally onto Scafell Pike 978 m (3,209 ft). Return via Rossett Pike 651 m (2,136 ft), Angle Tarn and Mickleden.  A mix of cloud, mist and sunny spells, no wind, no rain, perfect for walking! There were lots of people on Scafell Pike, including many families with young children, some as young as 5!  Total: 22.07 km, 1,409 m of ascent, 7 hours walking, 10 hours total time. 

There’s also a memorial plaque on the summit of Scafell Pike, with the words: ‘In perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom, peace and right in the Great War. 1914 – 1918. This summit of Scafell was given to the nation subject to any commoners rights & placed in custody of the National Trust by Charles Henry Baron Legonfield 1919’.

Tuesday August 23: The weather forecast was not so good, so we brightened up a misty day by walking among heather of all shades of pink and purple on Lingmoor Fell 469m (1,540ft). This is the mountain to climb when the higher tops promise to be in the clouds. Ascent from Elterwater in Great Langdale via the quarry (run by Burlington Slate).  ‘Ling’ in the name ‘Lingmoor’ means ‘heather’ and there’s 3 kinds growing on UK mountains, all beautiful!

Thursday August 25: “Positively one of the finest ridge-walks in Lakeland’ (Wainwright)! An early start for the Oxendale Horseshoe from Dungeon Ghyll Old Hotel, Great Langdale up Oxendale via Red Tarn to Pike O’Blisco 705m (2314ft), then to Cold Pike 700m (2297ft) and along the ridge of all 5 crinkles on the Crinkle Crags, including the highest point Long Top: 859m (2,819ft) on the second Crinkle, and along to Bowfell 902 m (2,959 ft) and down via The Band. 

This is THE view of Scafell Pike & Scafell, visible from all over the Lake District, this one taken from Bowfell….

Crinkle Crags officially has 5 crinkles, but it seemed way more than that – so many crinkles, so many rock buttresses, so many cairns on the tops! The famous ‘Bad Step’ on Crinkle 2 has an alternative route, don’t worry!

It was cloudy all morning, misty along the Crinkles, then the sun came out on Bowfell and stayed out all afternoon.  Total: 17.5 km, 1,234 m of ascent.

Walna Scar Road, Coniston Round

Saturday August 27: Amazing weather for August Bank Holiday Weekend doing the Coniston Round from Coniston village, out along the Walna Scar Road and up the ridge to Brown Pike, Buck Pike and Dow Crag 778m (2,552 ft) with its steep rock faces high above Goats Water…

Then on to the highest point of Old Man of Coniston, aka Coniston Old Man, 803m (2,635 ft) where the mist was swirling around. Along to Brim Fell, then very nearly almost the highest point of Swirl How 802m (2631 ft) – officially only one metre lower than the Old Man, and then to Great Carrs where the aeroplane (Halifax Bomber) memorial is located… 

Halifax LL505 came to grief on Great Carrs in the Lake District on the night of 22nd October 1944 whilst on a night navigation exercise from Topcliffe in Yorkshire. Its crew; seven Canadians and one Scot, encountered very thick cloud whilst over the north-west of England, they circled the aircraft hoping the cloud would clear but this made them even more lost. The pilot then descended so the navigator could get a visual fix on the ground but by this stage it was flying too low in the heart of the Lakes. In a few seconds the aircraft hit the top of Great Carrs and crashed killing all on board.” Very poignant.

Then up to Grey Friar 770m (2,530 ft) above Seathwaite Tarn, & back to Swirl How, down Prison Band and onto Wetherlam 763m (2,502 ft). Descent from Swirl Hawse to Levers Water (for paddling) & the Coppermines Valley, with a large number of disused copper mines & slate quarries.  The place is oozing with mining history. It’s now also a wedding venue.

“Although cruelly scarred and mutilated by quarries the Old Man has retained a dignified bearing, and still raises his proud and venerable head to the sky. His tears are shed quietly, into Low Water and Goats Water, two splendid tarns, whence, in due course, and after further service to the community in the matter of supplies of electricity and water, they ultimately find their way into Coniston’s Lake, and there bathe his ancient feet” (Wainwright).

A day with great views of Scafell Pike in the distance & everything in-between, even distant views to the Isle of Man. Misty spells and clouds, with lots of sunshine, no rain.  Perfect weather! Total: 23.7 km, 1,347m altitude gain.

Coniston house, notice next to the door says, ‘BEND or BUMP’!

Monday August 29: A White Heather Day for Bank Holiday Monday on the spectacular Helvellyn Ridge!  Ascent from Patterdale, starting in the drizzle and swirling mists, to Arnison Crag, Birks and St. Sunday Crag 841 m (2,759 ft). Apparently, St. Sunday is a local name of St. Dominic, meaning ‘of the Lord’ as in AD ‘Anno Domini’ (‘Year of the Lord’)…. 

St. Sunday Crag just coming out of the mists

Then down to Grisedale Tarn and up onto the Helvellyn Ridge: first to Dollywaggon Pike 858 m (2,815 ft) and Nethermost Pike 891 m (2,923 ft), with great views of Striding Edge, then to the highest point of Helvellyn 950 m (3,118 ft) just coming out of the mist at midday.  Onwards north to Helvellyn Lower Man, White Side 863 m (2,831 ft) and finally Raise 883 m (2,897 ft) where the Lake District Ski Club have a ski lift for use in winter. Descent via Sticks Pass through the heather (including one clump of real genuine white heather!) & through the old lead mining area – most of the old slag heaps are now covered in heather – up to Sheffield Pike 675 m (2,215 ft), ending with a steep descent to Glenridding.  Morning: drizzle and mist, afternoon: cloudy but dry. Total: 24.31 km, 1,567 m altitude gain.

Tuesday August 30: Not strictly a mountain, but there were stunning views and amazing scenery at Humphrey Head 52 m (172 ft), a long limestone outcrop with a natural arch near Grange-Over-Sands on Morecambe Bay, with windblown hawthorn trees full of haws, lots of yummy blackberries, steep limestone outcrops and plenty more. There’s an interesting fact on Wikipedia: “Humphrey Head is the traditional location for the killing of the last wolf in England, in about 1390…” and do google the rock-climbing videos of Humphrey Head, esp. ‘Back into the Future’: incredible!

Wednesday August 31: Wetherlam 763 m (2502 ft) really does deserve respect and a whole day to itself, without being included in ridgewalks to any other fells.  “Wetherlam features prominently in Brathay views like a giant whale surfacing above waves of lesser hills.” (Wainwright). Early morning ascent from Tilberthwaite (free parking), via the remains of the disused copper mines (mostly fenced off) and slate quarries, up Wetherlam Edge, along the ridge (it was very chilly!) and down to join the lovely grassy Tilberthwaite Gill path. Fascinating to peer into the old quarries and see the remains of the derelict buildings. 

Wikipedia: “In the past Wetherlam was extensively exploited for its mineral resources. The slopes on all sides are pitted with disused copper mines and slate quarries, making it the most industrialised of the Lake District fells. The workings are on a small scale, however, and, according to Alfred Wainwright, unobtrusive: “this fine hill… is too vast and sturdy to be disfigured and weakened by man’s feeble scratchings of its surface.”

Wetherlam is one of our old favourites, it is just so special!

Thursday September 1: Whitbarrow Scar 215 m (705 ft) is also (like Humphrey Head) not strictly a mountain – though mentioned in Wainwright’s ‘Outlying Fells of Lakeland’ as one of his favourites in the area – it’s a huge limestone outcrop, with lots of limestone pavement, and really spectacular. Full of fungi, sloes, blackberries and haws – signs of autumn!

Friday September 2: the last day of this current fine spell of weather, and the last weekday before schools go back next week. Having tried to go into Ambleside a few days ago and not finding a single parking place, so I decided to walk there and back, via Wansfell Pike 486.9 m (1,597 ft), down into Ambleside via Stockghyll Force, and back along the lower road that leads to Robin Lane in Troutbeck. 21 km round-trip. This was sunrise – the views were good!

Summer is ending, the Lake District is clearing of its vast summer crowds, although it still feels very full of people in the main towns. Signs of autumn arrived early a few weeks ago – red rowan berries, blackberries, hazelnuts, autumn crocus, cuckoo pint …..

And finally some photos of Troutbeck, where I’m staying, taken over the summer on nice sunny days. It’s a beautiful place, starting with Jesus Church, Troutbeck…

Some butterflies (small tortoiseshell, left, and red admiral, right) to wish you all a good start to the new school year and Happy Autumn!

Morecambe Bay Across the Sands!

Arnside

Beautiful but treacherous, Morecambe Bay is a place of startling contrasts!  Attractive beaches invite us to explore further but are surrounded by signs warning of ‘extreme danger’ ~ it’s known for its gentle waves and miles of shimmering sand, but also notorious for its quicksand and fast-moving tides. Most tragically, on the night of 5 February 2004, at least 21 Chinese cockle pickers drowned after being cut off by the tides. Everybody mentions that terrible event when asked about Morecambe Bay, and nobody wants to see it repeated, yet I heard there are regular incidents of people ignoring the danger signs and then getting stuck and needing rescuing.   

Rescue tractor – and dog

The only safe way to go out on the Morecambe Bay Sands is on an organized walk across the bay, which are all run by the Guide Over Sands Trust and must be guided by the Queen’s Guides to the Sands. The walks are run in aid of different charities over summer weekends when the tides are right. 

You pay a registration fee for the walk, usually about £15 per adult, and then if you want to raise more through sponsorship, that’s great. On Saturday August 20, the walk was in aid of the Grange-over-Sands Lido, but there was a train strike that day – so instead I signed up for yesterday’s walk, Sunday August 21, in aid of Galloways (Galloway’s Society for the Blind), one of Lancashire’s oldest charities, established in 1867 – and now providing services to over 7000 blind and visually impaired people across Lancs from its HQ in Preston. The walk was due to start at 1:00 pm from Arnside, walking across the bay to Grange-over-Sands.  This is the T-shirt specially produced for the occasion! 

But first, some background: “Morecambe Bay is a large estuary in northwest England, just to the south of the Lake District National Park. It is the largest expanse of intertidal mudflats and sand in the United Kingdom, covering a total area of 120 sq mi (310 km2).” 

It’s been famous for so long that even the “Greek geographer and astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (died c170 AD) referred in his writings to Morikambe eischusis as a location on Britain’s west coast, lying between the Ribble and the Solway.”

It is impossible to understand Morecambe Bay’s history without knowing about the importance of Cartmel Priory, in the quaint village of Cartmel, just inland from Grange-over-Sands.  It has quite some history, though today the priory is a dark and imposing edifice, and Cartmel has become more famous for its posh restaurants, horse races, and sticky toffee pudding…

The earliest mention of Cartmel in historical records occurs around 674 AD, when the land was bequeathed to St. Cuthbert by King Egfrith of Northumbria, who established a church dedicated to St. Michael. “This Christian era remained until 1189 when William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, founded Cartmel Priory. The Priory was saved at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the early 1530s, owing to William Marshal being granted an altar in one of the Priory’s chapels. The villagers protested that the Priory was in fact their parish church, and so it remains.”

“At the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII the Duchy of Lancaster acquired (amongst others) the Cartmel and Conishead Priories. With them went an obligation to appoint guides for travellers over the sands of Morecambe Bay, one over the Leven Sands, in the Estuary of the River Leven between Ulverston and Cark and the other over the Kent Sands in the Kent Estuary under the Cartmel Priory between Kents Bank and Hest Bank. Since the dissolution the Duchy has appointed two guides formally by Letters Patent but in more modern times through the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster.”

Sign at Cartmel Village

I’ve become interested in the Morecambe Bay area since my mother has now moved into a care home in Grange-over-Sands, and so I find myself regularly looking out at Morecambe Bay, and keen to explore – and she’s keen to hear my reports!  First though, Grange-over-Sands, on the north side of Morecambe Bay, where the weather is always warmer and drier than the Lake District, everything is in red and green, and where the building of the railway in 1857 enabled others to discover its delights too.  The railway is the key to Grange-over-Sands – and the key to me being able to take part in the Morecambe Bay Sands Walk!

Yesterday, the weather was fantastic, so I started early, with a walk up Hampsfield Fell (known as Hampsfell) 222m (727ft), just above Grange, where the top has a building called ‘Hampsfell Hospice’, a ‘sturdy limestone tower monument’ built in 1846 by the vicar of Cartmel as a shelter in bad weather.

The views were stunning, all the way to the distant Lake District mountains, and fascinating it was to see the limestone pavement on the top, filled with blackberries and blueberries growing in the pavement cracks, plus gorse on the slopes.

Due to Saturday’s rail strike, there was also expected to be some disruption to the trains yesterday, but by arriving early, I planned to have plenty of time to get from Grange to Arnside for the start of the walk.  In the event, I arrived at Grange Station at 9:15 am to find a train was coming in 20 minutes.  Normally there is about one train an hour, only 2 carriages long, and the train takes only 5 minutes to go across the bay on the railway bridge and arrive in Arnside. 

On arrival in Arnside, I went up Arnside Knott 159 m (522 ft), to see the view over Morecambe Bay from the south side.  Beautiful! 

And down to Arnside Promenade…

And by 12:30 pm, 300 people had gathered on the Arnside Prom, many coming on coaches, organized by Galloways from across Lancashire.  We were all dressed in our orange T-shirts!  The walk was led by the official guide, Michael Wilson and his team, all dressed in yellow. 

Estimates vary considerably as to the length of the walk and the time required, partly due to changing routes through the sands, but also due to numbers of people, as we have to wait for everyone to gather at various points before we set off again – though generally reckoned to be 3-4 hours and about 11-13km (7-8 miles).