2012: Friday Walks, Northern Sky – The Hospice of Hampsfell

Mostly our Friday walks take place near to Liverpool. Because there are wonderful places in and near Liverpool. And so we don’t have to spend much time travelling there. But a couple of times each year we’ll plan a full day out, still somewhere on our north-west coast, our wider ‘home’ – but further than usual. Back in early May we went south to Anglesey, today we travelled north, up into the northern sky.

Beginning at lovely Grange over Sands on the southern coast of Cumbria.

And the good news for me is that for the first time in a month, Sarah is with me on the Friday Walk. In fact she discovered today’s walk during her recent pilgrimage walk for her friend Rachel, and is keen to show it to me.

Sarah, pensive, waiting for the bus at Grange.
We’re getting the bus to Cartmel.

And today’s walk will be a fairly steep seven miles or so from Cartmel back to Grange, over Hampsfell.

Eight hundred years old Cartmel Priory, with Hampsfell behind it.
Inside the Priory, a green man carving.

In fact The Priory is much the most interesting thing about Cartmel. The rest of the village has been horribly gentrified to attract moneyed visitors, with shops full of tat and ponced up pubs full of foodies. So we are glad to get out of there and be on our way.

There are several ways to get up onto the fell, but Sarah takes us on one of the two routes she’s done, out of the village and past the Jammy Patch, one of the places her and Gemma stayed in when they were here a couple of weeks back.

Leaving the village.
Out past tiny little Cartmel Racecourse.
Passing a rare Edward VII post box. They didn’t make many of them before he abdicated for Wallis Simpson.

(Actually, historical error by me here. See Kathi’s comment below. A miscalculation of Royal Edwards.)

Anyway, this week, Sarah has been reading a book about dry stone walling, a technique used throughout Britain for building walls without mortar that can last for centuries. And along with the lovely skies, which we’ll get to, studying the walls is one of the main themes of this walk. First of all, we find two examples of little holes or shelters in the walls. We’re not sure what they’re for and so Sarah has contacted someone who lives locally to see if she knows. But until we get an explanation let me introduce you to ‘Horton Holes.’

As any of you who know a Horton will surely attest, they are loveable, but are quick to anger and can be vicious when cornered. So what could be better than one of these little caves? A Horton sized hole to keep your Horton safe and sheltered – but confined – until the danger has passed.

Sarah in a Horton Hole. Ideal size, as you can see.

But actually this day Sarah is radiantly happy.

So we’re soon off.
Passing more dry stone walls.
Out into open country and big skies.
A perfect day of sun, wind and showers.
And dry stone walls. Sarah here demonstrating a regional Cumbrian variant, sloping stones on the top edge of the wall.

And as we cross the fields climbing over or through ancient stiles, It becomes obvious to us that this ‘right of way’ we are walking has been established for centuries.

A ‘squeeze’ stile.
A stile with through stones built into the wall for climbing. Remember, there’s no mortar used here.
But these stiles have let us humans move around the countryside for hundreds of years.

We pass through one farm with ‘Private Property’ notices where they make it as hard as they can for you to tell where the public footpath is.

But we find the path and we pass harmlessly through. We are not the intruders here.
Up into the clear blue freedom of a perfect sky.
Some steep climbing now as we get high up on the fell.
Sarah, awestruck by a dry stone wall going right over the top.

And as we approach the top of the fell the winds howl, little showers of rain and hail pass over us in seconds. And looking back we can see this, to the north of us.

Helvellyn and the mountains of the Lake District.

And then right at the top we find this. The Hampsfell Hospice.

Built in 1846, a shelter for walkers.

I climb up onto the roof and take these pictures.

Looking east, to the Yorkshire Dales.
Looking south, to Morecambe Bay and the nuclear power station at Heysham.
And looking west out to sea. The magnificence of the Northern Sky.

We also take shelter for a few minutes inside the hospice. It’s cold and windy up here.

Sarah enjoys an iced bun!
And she’s brought the mini-tripod for her camera. So she can take a picture of the two of us.

Outside again, we explore the limestone pavement a passing glacier has created up here.

Sarah on the limestone pavement.
Ideal shelter, in a windy place, for all kinds of plants to flourish.

Sarah also risks her camera and tripod in the high wind, to take another picture of us two.

At the top of Hampsfell, October 2012.

And with evening coming on, too soon it’s time to begin the steep climb down to Grange. Pausing, though, for a few more sky pictures.

That was a perfect day…

For the two friends.

And if this walk had a soundtrack? Well the inevitable ‘Nimrod’ by Elgar always goes well with Northern hills. But also, and obviously ‘Northern Sky’ by Nick Drake, which we played on the way home.

‘If you would and you could, light up my northern sky.’

This walk is available as a cut and make mini-guide here.

Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

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  1. Lovely. What a great walk! But wasn’t it Edward VIII who abdicated? Edward VII was Victoria’s son, wasn’t he? The one who gave his name to the Edwardian era? The only reason I know this is because I happen to have a set of silverplated flatware (service for 12!) called Coronation that was specifically made by Oneida in the US in 1936 to celebrate the coronation of Edward VIII. It was amazingly popular here for several years, and has become very collectable as a result of its history and the fact that he abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson. The story of how I happened to acquire it at the tender age of 23 is rather comical (another time), but I got it for $75, which was an utter steal, and I have used it as my everyday silver for over 3 decades now, which just indicates how bloody old I am. ;)

    I love dry stone walls. We are lucky to have so many of them around here in southern Rhode Island, most of them very old (for America), going back to the 1700s & 1800s. One of my fave pix of one here was one I took on Block Island. It embodies the best things about this part of the world: coastline, farmland, boats, trees, cows and an old, long stone wall. If you ever visit here, we’ll take the ferry over & tour Block Island. xxoo

    1. You’re right Kathi! I’m almost proud to say you know more about the British Royal Family than I do! Getting the numbers wrong only shows me they’ve been squatting on British society for even longer than I’d thought.

      Nice dry stone wall on the link though, hadn’t realised they’d made it over to the U.S. with the pilgrims.

      1. Listen, I only know because I bought the silverware. New way to keep up with the Royals. Altho they no doubt have nicer flatware. xo

  2. Another great walk Ronnie,
    It reminded me of a journey I made from Leeming Bar N.Yorks across the dales and into Lancashire. Watching how drystone walling varied so much from one county to another.

  3. Lovely. But I have to admit, I’m quite partial to shops full of tat. It’s not a good country walk unless I’ve come home with a very expensive bar of soap.

  4. Beautiful piece – the photographs are magical. The drystone walls are amazing – we don’t have any where I am. I don’t think even the British Postal Service would have had time to install post boxes for Edward VIII, but I could be wrong. I like the idea of the guide – at least those of us who are not in the UK can take a virtual walk in your footsteps.

    1. Yes, sorry about the miscountings of Edwards. But there’ve been so many of them! And the guide to this walk is coming very soon. Sarah’s got it ready now.

      Interesting too, that dry stone walls crossed to America in the 16th century, but not to Australia in the 19th. Less intensive agriculture, wrong sort of rocks?

  5. Should also say that we were later contacted by ‘Bucky Horton’ from the USA, who confirmed that my description of how Hortons are also applies precisely to all the American Hortons they know!

  6. Absolutely beautiful views. So glad you had a good day near my current home. You can almost see it in one of the views southwards across Morecambe Bay. My maternal ancestors, the Hadwins, came from this area – Cark and can be found in Cartmel Priory registers up to about 200 years ago. My great grandfather moved to Hoylake in about 1900 and later became the park keeper in West Kirby. His wife came from Great Orford Street off Mount Pleasant – one of the spots I like to show my students because it was an overcrowded slum area, just round the corner from the Assembly Rooms, where the well-off used to gather. It was their son who worked on “Hillbark”. Next time you are up here, give us a shout.

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