Thursday, 31 May 2012


Blimey that was a quick week! As I am in the midst of exams, sadly there is no new post ready, for both this week and next week, and of course dear reader, I apologise profusely for that!

Food, or is that drink for thought?

I've done some great walks recently in Wainwright's Northern Lakes, so look out for the stories very soon!

Dodd from the slopes of Carl Side

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Recharging the Batteries

It's been a hell of a long wait, but finally I will be returning to the Lake District in the next few days. It seems like an eternity since our Scafell Pike walk, and although there have been some good walks in Swaledale and Three Peaks country over the past few months I can't wait to set my foot back on Lake District turf.

Loughrigg Tarn with the Langdale Pikes in the distance

Other commitments including work, a return to college and good old rock'n'roll have meant I have had to cut down on walks recently, but I am really looking forward to getting back out in the hills, reacquainting myself with some old favourites and getting some new peaks under my belt.

Coniston Water

I sometimes think about "peak bagging" or "doing the Wainwrights" and how fellwalking can seem like a mission to complete lists and tick boxes rather than for the pleasure of it, but I think that's only the half of it. Trying to do new fells means you are always exploring new scenery and finding new favourites to revisit. Our Swaledale expedition this Spring is sure to become a firm favourite as it was a sensational walk. Visiting some of the less popular fells means a better chance of avoiding the crowds, and even in the height of Summer or a popular Bank Holiday weekend, you can still find areas in the Lake District where fellow walkers are few and far between.

solitude can be found even on the summit of Blencathra

One great benefit of a weekend of walking is how getting away from it all really refreshes the mind as well as body. I come up with different perspectives problems or difficult questions, and there's nothing better than coming off the fells with a fresh solution to an idea you have been wrestling with at work, or a new songwriting idea. And let's face it, being inspired by the Lakes puts you in the company of some great minds, and that's no bad thing now is it?

Hawkshead Grammar School - Wordsworth's school

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Swaledale's Mining Legacy

Some of my recent walks have taken me along some of the finest scenery in the Dales and at the same time shown me a great deal of Swaledale's industrial heritage. I thought I'd take this opportunity to take a closer look at some of these historic sites. Far from being an expert, I found these places really interesting and I thought I would share some information and images with you.

Crackpot Hall

Crackpot Hall overlooking Swaledale

I have been interested in exploring the ruins of Crackpot Hall ever since learning about it from Julia Bradbury's Coast to Coast programme. This is not only a really interesting building complete with outhouses but it offers some really spectacular views along Swaledale. The buildings had been used as a shooting lodge and farmhouse but have stood empty since the 1950s.  For more information read,_North_Yorkshire

Crackpot Hall plaque unfortunately missing!

Swinner Gill Lead Mines

At the point where Swinner Gill and East Grain meet, the footpath crosses a small stone bridge and beneath the bridge you can see how the rocks have been polished slick by hushing, which was a method of mining that used water to reveal mineral veins. As we stopped to take a couple of pictures a fellow walker told us about a cave further up the gill at Swinnergill Kirk that served as a place of worship for Catholics at a time of religious persecution. Here is a walk report in the area for you to read on the excellent Walking Englishman website:

Blakethwaite Smelt Mill

I have visited this site twice now, but I think it will remain a sight that I could never tire of. The arches that remain would be just at home on the site of an ancient abbey such as Easby or Egglestone as they are here high up Gunnerside Gill. The kiln is still fully intact and also looks like it was built as part of a castle rather than for the smelt mill. This site started its working life in 1821, smelting ore from the Blakethwaite and Lownathwaite mines.

looking up to the kiln

Old Gang Smelting Mill

Coming round a corned along the bridleway heading from west to east, the approach to Old Gang Smelting Mill is an impressive one - evidence of the mining past is all around as you spot a tunnel here, another level there before spying the collection of buildings in the distance. It's quite amazing to think the network of tunnels stretches all the way back to Gunnerside Gill. There is a lot still to see here with the tall chimney dominating the scene. There is a good walk described in Paul Hannon's "Walking Country - Swaledale" book which takes in this site and offers plenty of background information.

Surrender Lead Smelt Mill

Dating from around 1840, this old mill and peat house is not too far from Surrender Bridge. It is a grade 2 listed building and was built to replace a mill from 1680. For more information about the mines of Yorkshire have a look at this excellent site:

High up on the moors heading towards the Old Gang Smelting Mill on what is almost a lunar landscape we came across this disused stone-breaking machine, I wonder if it has been left up there as a momento of an industrial time gone by?

This article goes into much more detail about the lead mining history of the northern Dales and is well worth a read:

Friday, 11 May 2012

Richmond Castle Walk

Richmond is a great town with a lot to offer and is well worth a visit. For more information please follow the links at the bottom of this article.

Most of the walkers amongst you will know Richmond as a welcome stop on Wainwright's Coast To Coast walk, and a chance to enjoy shops, pubs and a brief look back at how day to day life goes on before heading back to the trail!

This is a short walk starting at the market place in the "Gateway to the Dales" town of North Yorkshire.

I often do this walk in the morning with a coffee, before starting the day at work and it means the day always gets off to a good start. It only takes about ten minutes and without any steps or rough terrain this is also perfect for pushchairs and wheelchairs.

Richmond Castle is an English Heritage site, for more information please click here:

Starting at the marketplace, you head up to the top of the square and from here a signpost points the way.

One of the first things to notice is Culloden Tower, built in 1746 to celebrate the victory of the Duke of Cumberland's army over Prince Charles Edward Stuart at Culloden Moor.  The footpath here has recently been resurfaced and the new gravel means this walk is manageable whatever the weather. As you head down the slope the river Swale comes into view far below.

Walking round the back of the castle and the town is out of sight, with the high castle walls on one side and the steep bank down to the river and the meadows beyond on the other side.

From here you are able to hear the distinct roar of the Richmond Falls, especially after a period of heavy rain, and as you round a bend, you catch a brief glimpse of the falls between the trees. The path down to the falls is a short walk down the steep hill.

Ahead of you is the bridge across the river and just beyond is Richmond Station, home to a cinema, exhibitions, a tasty cafe and some excellent artisan food and drink stores and producers such as Lacys cheese, Richmond Station brewery and Archers ice cream.

You now face the five minutes of hard work, as you head back up the steep bank which takes you to the bottom of the market square. As I mentioned at the start this is just a very short walk, but with more than its fair share of rewarding views!

For further information on Richmond:
Richmond Online:
Richmond Station:

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Walking with the Guardian

Here's a quick note to say I have published a walk report on the travel pages of The Guardian website which can be viewed here.

This is a short version of my recent Swaledale adventure, and I hope to build up a collection of articles on this site. Most posts on there are fairly short, and of course as with all sites that are comprised of recommendations, some of them need to be taken with a decent pinch of salt!

Having said that, there are plenty of tips in all manner of categories, from places, to parks, to restaurants and shops, and it's a good place to pick up ideas for any travel plans you may have.

There is currently a really interesting feature on the Guardian's travel site about exploring the North Yorkshire Moors which is well worth a read: