Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

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A few weeks ago, I visited Nottingham, a city connected with Robin Hood and his adversary, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Alas, the castle was closed for renovations until 2020 so the exterior wall was all I saw of the castle. 2020 is the year to go to Nottingham!

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But I did meet Robin Hood and his Merry Men, larking about outside the ancient dwelling.

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If you do venture to Nottingham, in the East Midlands of England, there is a hostelry that is, in my view, an absolute must for lovers of history, geology, atmosphere, nooks and crannies, intrigue and potential ghosts. This ancient inn is called Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and is actually set in the walls of the castle.

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Many venues boast of ‘being the oldest pub’ or ‘most haunted’, but once I crossed the threshold of Ye Olde Trip, I felt both claims may well have an element of truth (if ghosts actually exist in the first place of course!)

Unlike today’s open plan pubs, which focuses more on convenience than atmosphere, this inn is full of nooks and crannies, one small, cosy room leading to another. Artefacts, such as swords, old photos and information was displayed on the ancient walls.

 

 

Halloween was around the corner, so there was a spooky theme, admittedly, but the ‘Haunted Snug’ needed no eerie skeleton or witch embellishments. The info plaque explained how it was always warm, even though there were no radiators or other heating. (Usually I associate ghosts with a cold atmosphere, but perhaps this spook was a kindly soul who liked catering for guests). There was also a portrait of an old-fashioned lady, whose eyes (according to the information board) followed you around. It’s a funny trick of the mind, but it really did seem to be the case.

 

After going to this room, I visited the courtyard toilet and, filled with ghostly ideas, being in this space by myself started to give me the creeps! Once I washed my hands, I quickly walked back into the busier bar area!

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Upstairs, there was a spooky looking model of a ship which I assumed was a deliberate Halloween display. I only found out the actual, grisly story behind it later when researching the pub’s background.

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Here are five fascinating facts about The Olde Trip …

* It was build into the rocks that Nottingham Castle is built on.

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At one spot in this quirky pub, here’s the view above our heads…

* There is a network of sandstone caves beneath the building, it is thought that these were originally used as a brewery for the castle and dates from the construction of the castle (1068AD). Cellar tours are available.

* The Cursed Galleon, as photographed earlier, is a small wooden model of a ship – covered in grime and dirt – and resides in a glass container. On the Greene King website, it is claimed that people who have cleaned it over the years have met with a mysterious death and now landlords refuse to let anyone clean it. True story or urban legend?

*It is believed the inn was established in 1189. Richard the Lionheart became King in that year, which was also the year the Pope called for a Third Crusade to the Holy Land. (There is, unfortunately, no documented evidence of the date of the inn). A ‘Trip’ in the Middle Ages was actually a place to rest. Legend says the Crusaders would have stopped off at the inn for a rest and refreshments before their journey to Jerusalem.

*The oldest parts of the building were constructed in the 1650s.

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Trek Diary September 2018: Meeting Little Man (865m/2,837ft) … And Skiddaw (931m/3,053ft)

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Me on the summit of Skiddaw. Note the wind-swept hair! Not the most flattering of photos but a reminder of just how blustery it was up there

Here’s an obvious fact – the more exercise you do, the fitter you will feel. But if you stop exercising for a four-month period, that fitness level will drop. And the delight at finding Scafell Pike not quite as hard as first thought because there had been a swim/walk campaign in the three months beforehand… Well, that joy will be non-existent when walking up Skiddaw with no fitness plan in place prior to the walk. Scafell Pike was a hike. Skiddaw – and Little Man, a cruel juxtaposition if ever I saw one – was a trudge.

If you look at the photos of me doing it, I appear to be taking my clothes off (well, my coat and jumper, it got increasingly hot), then at the top putting them back on again! On, off, on, off…

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We set off from Keswick, where we were staying for a weekend. A walk out from town, bypassing the Pencil Museum, took us on a upward path where we met quite a few walkers. Further up, it turned out there was a car park – so we could have got away without this gruelling hill to begin with!

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But that was only a little stroll up a staircase in comparison of what was to come.

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At the car park, there was obviously an event going on. From earlier signs in the town centre, I suspect it was a race for fell runners. A group of people I much admire but could never belong to! Oddly we didn’t encounter any up the hill, but I think their course went a different route. Enticingly, amid the army tents, a tea and cake stall greeted us. But we ignored this most pleasant venue and carried on to our date with Little Man.

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The monument (according to Wainwright) is a memorial to three men of the Howell family, who were shepherds.
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Me on the summit of Little Man

Little Man. Ha! As apt a name as Liverpool’s famous and fabulous ‘Little Boy’ (he’s actually a puppet giant), Little Man is also a giant in these hills. My lack of fitness levels was becoming increasingly apparent to me, why had I stopped swimming once I reached my target? Why was Scafell Pike an easier climb when it was actually higher? Lesson to self: you really do feel the benefits of consistent exercise.

Funnily, although the weather wasn’t terrible at that time, there was hardly a walker to be seen. The greatest majority of people were mountain bikers, speeding up or down the scree.

Ah, yes, the scree. I’ll get back to that later.

The problem with Little Man is there is no consideration for those who wish to visit him. No rest spots of delightful flatness. Just a steep slope uphill. You’d think if you were visiting a Little Man he would offer you a nice rest for weary legs, but no.

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There were a few times when I pondered ‘are we there yet?’, after reaching a cairn. And then another cairn… And another.

Eventually we reached the top of Little Man and the weather was getting tough. Mist and rain and wind. Should we carry on to Skiddaw or go back? We approached a couple who showed us where we were on the map and we trudged on.

Ever the troopers.

The wind and fog got worse. And there were so many fake cairns mimicking the summit – although later, I realised they actually were very helpful as they guided walkers back down the hill. When the top was finally reached, there was no splendid view to be seen, just a grey-white sky.

On the way down, I was nervous of the scree and scattered stones, of which there were many. Especially on the steeper than normal sections. We passed a group of mountain bikers who also made it to the top. How they managed, I’ve no idea. It took me all my time to edge down carefully.

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Skiddaw

 

 

We walked back via Carl Side, another hill, although I was past caring at that point. I wanted warmth and a cup of tea.

And everything went okay until Ouch!!!

(Ironically we weren’t that far from the bottom at this point).

Cue swear words (I don’t generally swear unless I am very p….off, which I was then!) as I fell and landed on my left ankle. To fall on a bottom is embarrassing but fairly painless but an ankle?

It was painful. Thankfully, I was able to stand, delicately picking myself back up. And walk. But not as easily as before.

Thankfully I had my walking poles with me to help and we headed back into Keswick where we enjoyed a much-needed caffeinated drink and a warm shower, and then our evening meal in a local pub.

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It took nearly two weeks for my ankle to heal properly.

Afterwards I turned to my trusty guide Wainwright, expecting him to agree that Skiddaw is a long, tiring, difficult mountain to climb.

Instead he writes in his Northern Fells Pictorial Guide: ‘It has been derided as a route for grandmothers and babies, rather unfairly: the truth is that this is an ascent all members of the family can enjoy. It is not so much a climb as a mountain walk to a grand, airy summit’.

Was Wainwright talking about the same mountain?! ⛰️⛰️⛰️

(To be fair, if it wasn’t for the scree, lack of fitness, blustery weather and sprained ankle, I’d have liked Skiddaw and Little Man more). 🏔️🏔️🏔️

Facts of the Day

1. Skiddaw is the fourth highest peak in the Lake District.

2. Skiddaw Little Man is one mile away from Skiddaw. It is classed as a ‘subsidiary summit of Skiddaw’.

3. Skiddaw is mentioned in the fourth book of John Keats’ poem Endymion.

Trek Diary – September 2018 Catbells – 451m/1,481ft

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On paper, Catbells should be a fairly straightforward and easy-ish walk. At 451m it is no Scafell Pike. And true, whereas on Skiddaw we barely saw a walker (surely a bad sign?!), on Catbells, there were many older ramblers, families, day-trippers and holidaymakers. But I didn’t get the impression of there being many hardened mountain walkers. And Wainwright himself says:”Catbells is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together”.

But I had a sprained ankle (yes, yes, I know I should have laid in bed and drank copious amounts of tea but it wasn’t too bad a sprain) and although it wasn’t broken, merely bruised, it did mean that this hill climb would be a little harder than it ought to be.

We thought there might be a long and tedious road walk before the climb itself, but a helpful lady at the tourist information centre told us there was a short walk along the road which led into a pleasant wander through woodland – or we could take a boat trip. That sounded rather appealing to me, feeling rather lazy, but we took the scenic wooded route anyway.

So walking through Keswick town centre, we passed a bridge over the River Greta (on the way back, we witnessed a heron and a guillemot at the river) and saw the pencil museum across the road. Then turned left, onto the Cumbria Way, past the village of Portinscale towards the Lingholm Estate. We greeted alpacas chewing sweet grass in a field and carried on via the woodland, where we came across this unusual fungi on  tree.

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And here are a few views of our walk up Catbells… And the scenes from the hill itself, looking down to Derwentwater.

 

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If you are looking for a hill climb to do with your family – whether children, teens, middle-aged or retired and fit parents, this is a brilliant walk. Lovely scenery and wonderful views, not much scrambling and not too steep or strenuous. It is still a hill, still a challenge, but if you’re moderately fit, you can do this. It makes a great ‘first’ hill climb or, if you’re a lover of peak bagging, your first of 214 Wainwright’s! Not one for lovers of solitude though as it’s a popular climb, probably for the reasons I’ve given.

I got confused at the top as it looked as if we hadn’t reach the summit. Where was the cairn for me to take a photo saying ‘I did it?!’

But there is no cairn and there wasn’t one in Wainwright’s day either. The ridge continues to Maiden Moor, High Spy, Dale Head, Handsworth and Robinson which can provide a horseshoe walk if you’re in the mood and have the time.

But we didn’t so we climbed back down the same way, tracing back our steps through the woodland – where waterproofs were quickly donned during a fierce downpour –  and headed into Keswick, ready for a warming cup of tea and a bite to eat at an American-style diner.

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Facts of the Day

1. Catbells could be a corruption of Cat Bields (the shelter of the wild cat) – but this isn’t certain.

2. Catbells overlooks Derwentwater, and its nearest town is Keswick (you can walk from Keswick to it).

3. There is a memorial stone to Thomas Arthur Leonard (1864-1948). He founded the Co-operative Holidays Association and the Holiday Fellowship and was a pioneer for outdoor holidays for working people.

When I went to jail

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I have been to prison twice in my life and very interesting and educational experiences they have been too. They have also been thought-provoking, raising questions about crime and punishment.

The first was Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland, some years ago. The second was Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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What did I do wrong to land in jail? Well, nothing. For those readers who don’t know, these two former prisons are open to the public and if you are in either of those cities, and are curious about Irish social and political history, they are worth a visit.

Work on Crumlin Road Gaol was started in 1843, after being designed by architect Sir Charles Lanyon in 1841. It was ready for the first inhabitants in 1846. 106 men, women – and children – were marched on foot in chains from Carrickfergus Gaol in 1846. The prison finally closed in 1996.

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On our tour, we were given glimpses into the reception area, where prisoners first arrived, holding cells and the fascinating tunnel which went under the, now busy, road to the courthouse. Unfortunately the courthouse is currently an empty building but our guide told us that a hotel company has bought it and is hoping to redevelop it.

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The tunnel was creepy. I would hate to be there by myself and it is no surprise there are paranormal events there. Our guide told us a tale of a previous tour when a little boy asked who the man was at the bottom of the tunnel. The guide looked where the child was pointing and said there was no man (and neither should there have been). The child remained adamant.

Spooky.

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We also saw the governor’s office and the cell block. There were five blocks leading off from the main section. In one block, which they have opened for the public, we saw snapshots of what the cells may have been like in the 1800s – and the 1970s.

 

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We learnt of the different punishments, such as the Crank, a device where a prisoner had to push down a lever to turn it. If it seemed too easy, the screw got tightened, hence the term ‘screws’.

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And then we saw the ‘death row cell’. This room was very different to the others and being there and hearing about it made me feel very cold. Three members of the famous Pierrepont family were executioners. What a horrific job.

Perhaps not a place for the overly sensitive, but it is such a fascinating place and it does show how our prisons and other punishments in Ireland and Britain have changed over the years.

Facts of the Day

1. During the Irish Famine (1845 to 1851), the number of crimes was nearly 3 times the number reported just before the disaster. It is thought that starving people were committing crimes such as theft so they could be sentenced to prison and therefore be able to eat the sparse prison diet. 

2. Eamon de Valera, President of the Irish Republic during the 1919-22 Troubles, was imprisoned for one month in 1924. He had breached an order excluding him from Northern Ireland.

3. Suffragettes were imprisoned during the campaign for women’s right to vote before the first World War. 

Information from Souvenir Guidebook to Crumlin Road Gaol. http://www.crumlinroadgaol.com

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Glasson Dock

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It’s hard to believe that today’s small, quiet and peaceful Glasson Dock was once the largest port in the North West of England (according to the Canal and River Trust website) and was used to import cotton, sugar, spices and slaves from the West Indies and Africa. It was opened in 1787 and is located at the head branch of the Lancaster Canal.

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I paid a visit with my parents recently. There is a large car park and, on the day, it was easy to find a space. It was a little confusing as the pay and display machine was blocked off and a notice said the car park would be run by a different operator. I assumed we didn’t have to pay. Oh well, if I was supposed to, I will soon find out I imagine!

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Unfortunately the pub we frequented last time was closed but there is another one five minutes away, across the swing bridge and past the Glasson Basin Lock on the West Quay. It is called The Dalton Arms, serving food and drinks. Sitting in a cosy corner, two of us had our tea while Guinness was the third refreshment chosen. The inn, like the port, also dates back to the 1700s.

Following refreshments, we embarked on a ramble along the canal, passing a few canal boats, two swans, several swallows flying overhead, a dog walker with two friendly cockapoodle canines and two middle-aged women clutching carrier bags, gathering blackberries. For jam or pies perhaps?

We also visited the Victorian Christ Church, built in 1840, which sits facing the canal.

Memorial plaques hanging on the walls give clues to its shipyard history. A customs house and shipyard were built in the village in 1834, focused more on repairing rather than building boats. In 1968, the shipyard was closed. The dry dock, which opened in 1841, was filled in 1969.

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The canal would have eventually taken us to the main branch of the Lancaster Canal where we could have headed to Preston or Lancaster.

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We didn’t go as far as that though, and after reaching a couple of bridges, we turned back, after a very pleasant and relaxing canal stroll.

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But the canal is only one picturesque part of Glasson Dock, the other side of the dock opens out to River Lune which, in the old days, would take ships out to sea. Not so much now.

Here, too, there are places to walk.

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The beauty of this hidden spot obviously makes it a welcome place for walkers and cyclists. The Bay Cycle Way, of which we saw signs, starts (or ends) at Glasson Dock and takes the cyclist on a 81-mile tour of Morecambe Bay up to the south coast of Cumbria. There is also the Lune Valley footpath, taking the walker up to Lancaster via splendid views across the estuary. One day I’ll do that. But today was just a very peaceful two or three-mile stroll in a beautiful yet uncrowded part of the world.

Glasson Dock – a haven of beauty and peace. Peace and beauty.

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City of hope

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Guess where the seals are from? I’ll tell you later! 🙂

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City Hall, a grand building and convenient landmark. It stopped us getting lost many a time! 

Here’s a confession. I never wanted to visit Belfast in Northern Ireland. I had the chance in 2009 when my family and I went to Ballycastle for a week’s break (County Antrim is absolutely stunning). We could have gone to Belfast but we opted for Derry, Londonderry, Lovely-Derry (delete as appropriate to you). True, there were the Loyalist and Nationalist flags and murals but it seemed more in-the-past, more historical, less intimidating, and besides, Belfast is a much bigger city, so I was bound to be more apprehensive anyway.

I was mostly prejudiced by the news footage from the 20th century with the differing communities fighting amongst each other. All very scary and bloody.

To find out the reasons why, it’s necessary to look into the history of it all and then the reasons behind the violence and segregated communities starts to become clearer. But I don’t have the room to outline it all here and I’m no expert so this tale isn’t about The Troubles.

This is a story about Belfast Post-Troubles.

Twenty years since the peace process (the treaty was signed in 1998, yes, it is the 20th anniversary this year), it is possible to go on a hop-on hop-off bus into the staunch Loyalist and Republican areas – Falls Road and Shankill Road. The murals are now curious, interesting and, actually, some are rather artistic.

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Of course, they are still a stark reminder of the violence of that time. Some are still threatening to look at, portraying gunmen, but they’re not as intimidating as back before the peace process. I can’t imagine what it would have felt like to live here at that time. Amid the old-style ‘war murals’ (our tour guide said it was indeed like living in a civil war zone), more optimistic artwork is blossoming, such as this peace mural.

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Now, instead of shrill bangs and bombs going off, you get loud squeals of laughter from hen and stag parties. The array of olde worlde pubs in Belfast appear to be very popular too. Is Belfast now becoming the party capital of Northern Ireland (maybe even of Ireland, Britain and the whole of Europe)?! 🎉🎈🎉

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The shipbuilding industry is gone (although the Titanic remnants are still there, witness the ‘Samson and Goliath’ cranes with H and W proudly etched on. That’s Harland and Wolff, the makers of Titanic). You can learn more on the Titanic boat tour or the museum.

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Becoming a post-industrial city, like many others, especially in an internet age of shopping, has hit Belfast hard. There is graffiti and neglect, yet there are signs of hope.

For instance, the redevelopment of the docks, new non-sectarian artwork and modern shiny buildings, including the SSE Arena.

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I don’t doubt, looking at the peace wall still separating the two communities, there is still tension and mistrust.

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The last 20 years won’t wipe it out immediately. It will take time and patience. And when I was there, there appeared to be a political stalemate at Stormont, pictured below. Brexit – the UK voting to leave the EU, while Ireland remains in it – is an added complication.

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It would be much more than a shame if all the hard work over the years was thrown away. It’s my personal view that prosperity and peace go together, and that compromise, giving people a voice and listening to each point of view can go a long way towards making a happier place.

So now maybe you are thinking I had placed a picture of seals by mistake. What has a piece about a post-industrial city, still with scars from The Troubles, have to do with a colony of seals?

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But it was no mistake. They are real Belfast seals, having returned to the river after many years of shipbuilding had left it dirty, poisoned and polluted. The water was cleaned of the contamination and now fish and seals have come back.

To me, they are a sign of hope. If the seals can come back and thrive then, well, so can peace. 🙂

As an added P. S – Despite my initial prejudices, I enjoyed Belfast, it’s an interesting, vibrant and fun city. And even if you’re not a city-person, the countryside in Northern Ireland is absolutely beautiful.

 

St Benet’s Abbey

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While on holiday in the beautiful Norfolk Broads, on one of our walks we came across an unusual site called St Benet’s Abbey. We started from the village of Ludham, and walked across country lanes to the abbey. Here are 5 facts:

1. Except for low flint walls and earth mounds, only the ruined gatehouse still exists – but this has an 1700s windpump built around it.

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2. It was founded about 1020AD – the first Benedictine Abbey in Norfolk.

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3. The abbey was not officially closed in the 1530s – unlike every other monastery in the country. The Bishop of Norwich was instead appointed as the abbot. Despite this, monastic life ended soon after and the buildings – except for the gatehouse – were demolished for their stone.

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4. The local diocese still owns the site of the abbey church and it remains consecrated ground. The Bishop of Norwich holds an open air service here every year in August.

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How the abbey may have looked. Courtesy of Tim Pestell’s St Benet’s Abbey: A Guide and History

5. St Benet’s Abbey may have been established as a royal estate and King Cnut was an early benefactor. Beforehand, maybe as early as the 800s, Anglo-Saxon hermits are believed to have lived at the location.

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Information courtesy of St Benet’s Abbey: A Guide and History by Tim Pestell.

 

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Trek Diary – May 2018: Lincolnshire Wolds

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Lincolnshire WoldsWoods and Mills walk (9 miles) 

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Simon picked up a leaflet in a pub for this Lincolnshire Wolds walk a while ago and one weekend in May we decided to try it. Much flatter and easier than our last endeavour, Scafell Pike, it is an interesting walk with two choices of routes, three and nine miles. It also takes in some of the Viking Way. We embarked on the nine-mile ramble.

It starts off from Market Rasen, a small quiet market town, and from there we walked to Tealby. Tealby is a pretty little village with, among its sites of interest, All Saints Church, The Vintage Cafe (gorgeous cakes as I can testify!) and the oldest pub in Lincolnshire, The King’s Head, circa 1367 and boasting a thatched roof.

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This walk took us through the Forestry Commission owned Willingham Woods and onto farmland.

We saw Hamilton Hill (yes, the Wolds is the hilly point of Lincolnshire!) Hundreds of years ago, it was the meeting point for protesters gathering for the Lincolnshire rebellion against Henry VIII who was busy dissolving monasteries at that time.

Later on, walking along a path through fields, we looked towards a hill on the left and saw a crowd of domesticated deer grazing – and gazing toward us. Had I a proper camera, it would have made a great picture. Believe it or not, the photo below us – showing some brown spots on a hill – is supposed to capture the scene of the curious deer.

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One moment of confusion occured when, later on, a path was diverted (hopefully this will no longer be the case or will be better signposted if you go). Amid the seemingly deserted farm buildings, we pondered what to do, go through the field with cows and calves – and, oh dear, was that a bull? Yet it looked like the correct and most direct route. We opted for the longer way through the field with placid sheep. Thankfully, this turned out to be the right one!

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Notes of interest:

Market Rasen, situated on the edge of the Wolds, is known for its racecourse. Also, did you know a 5.2 Richer Scale earthquake occurred in 2008? The town has 19th century redbrick Georgian and Victorian buildings and a medieval church. 

Tealby All Saints Church dates from the 12th century and was built with local stone. Tennyson has a link to Tealby – his grandparents came from there and Tennyson himself used to walk from Somersby (his birthplace) to Tealby. 

The walk takes the hiker into the Lincolnshire Wolds – the highest ground in Eastern England (between York and Kent) and an Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB). Why the mention of Mills in the title of the walk? Well, there were 15 Mills along the River Rase, used for grinding corn and, later on, paper making. On our way back, we came across this (not strictly on the walk). It was believed to be the site of a 1300s hermitage.  

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 The walk can be found at: http://www.lincswolds.org.uk.

Click on Publications, Gateway Walks and then Following Woods and Mills. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trek Diary: April – Scafell Pike (height: 3,210ft/978m)

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When I was a teenager, the Big One was a rollercoaster in Blackpool. Incredibly high (was it the highest in England at the time?) and rather scary, the views over the Blackpool coast – if you hadn’t closed your eyes in sheer terror – were wonderful.

I loved it.

Go forward a few (and then some!) years later and wanting to go up the Big One has a very different connotation to way back then. This time the Big One is in the Lake District and is Scafell Pike.

High, tick. Scary, tick. Views (weather permitting), tick.

Simon and I were going on a walking weekend to the Lake District. And as it was a ‘big’ birthday, (21st since you’re asking 😉), I decided I wanted to do what any normal person would want to do to mark a significant date.

Climb the highest mountain in England, of course! ☺️⛰️

So with trepidation, I awoke sluggishly at 5.45am one Saturday morning and by 7am, we were off. We headed past Wast Water, a tranquil lake overlooked by steep mountains, and parked in the National Trust car park, complete with wooden refreshments stall, information board on Scafell Pike conditions (cold in a word) and festival-style portaloos.

There were many walkers on our distinct stony path leading uphill and seeing them resting en route made me feel happier, as if I was given permission to rest too. But we kept going mostly. It was hard, as there appeared to be very few flat sections – so when there was one I felt as if it were the equivalent of a good afternoon nap compared to the uphill trudge! Compared to Pendle Hill, it was more gradual, not as steep, but much longer. And still onwards and upwards… And upwards…

I was grateful then that we had trekked up that bewitched Pendle Hill twice as this felt, definitely not easy, but more tolerable than I was expecting. And I was glad I had tried to become fitter by swimming and walking. I wasn’t fit at this point, but more so than a few months ago and it made a difference.

 

Looking back was the stunning sight of Wast Water.

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Wainwright says the usual route from Wasdale Head (near where we started from) was via Brown Tongue – the shortest way but ‘also the dullest unless the opportunity is taken to visit Mickledore by a deviation from the path’.

Do we take the nice easier option to the top (my choice!) or go the, what Wainwright calls, ‘magnificent’ journey into Hollow Stones and along the Mickledore Ridge? 🤔

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Mickledore it was. Its name reminded me of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. What would Frodo do?

I thought it was tough walking up the path. It was nothing compared to what was ahead. A steep scree gully called Lord’s Rake.

At first, it was not so steep and the scree not so loose, it was manageable. But it got narrower, steeper, and the rocks I placed my feet on seemed to collapse on contact.

Falling, sliding and slipping all seemed viable options… And the bottom seemed to get further and further away with each foothold.

I was not enjoying this. Concentration was key and so was bravery. A young woman in front of me was crying, her courage having left her. I knew the feeling. Along with her boyfriend, they let us go in front. As Simon told me the safest places to climb up, I felt sure that, behind us, his advice would help her too. And once we got up, they weren’t too far behind.

Like me, she too had conquered her fears.

At the top, on Mickledore, we followed the ridge – once again full of rocks and stones – past a mountain kit store, mentioned in my 1979 map, up a more gradual path to the top.

The final hurdle was a rocky barren landscape, there was even a patch of snow. We had to be careful we didn’t fall through the cracks of this makeshift pavement. Onwards and upwards, passing various cairns but not the real deal until…

 

There it was – the summit. A huge cairn and a trig point. Many fellow achievers were there, celebrating having made it, including two Yorkshire terriers – in mini-rucksacks adorned by their humans. It was misty so no wondrous views although there was a lake – Buttermere we were told – in the distance as we climbed down.

 

As Wainwright says, the paths are distinct but uneasy to walk on, because of the boulders. We headed back to Wasdale Head via Brown Tongue and Lingmell Col. Wainwright says this tourist route is ‘a tiring and uninteresting grind, designed to preserve users from falls’.

But at that moment, that suited me fine. We passed various hikers and they passed us. A couple of weary travellers asked us hopefully, ‘How long to the top?’  ‘About half an hour’, Simon said honestly. Faces fell. A man in a group on the way down clutched a can of lager, perhaps to celebrate reaching the top?

Instead of venturing left to the car park, we went right, heading to the little village itself. The mile stretched itself as far as it could. Once there, a quick visit to the gift/hiking shop – you can buy a certificate marking your achievement for a pound  – and an evening meal in the pub before wearily traipsing back to the car and to our B&B.

 

Trek Diary – Part 3: February/March – Pendle Hill

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Pendle Hill is famous among these parts of Lancashire, or should I say infamous? Have you watched Arthur Miller’s The Crucible? Where a frenzy of hysterics erupted in an American society in the 1600s and it was claimed some of the villagers were witches?

Well, something similar happened in Lancashire.

In England, the 1600s was a time of superstition, intolerance and persecution. King James I, who increasingly became more paranoid after the Gunpowder Plot, broadened the Witchcraft Act in 1604.

And so there was, quite literally, a witch hunt.

In 1612, in the Pendle area, Alizon Device cursed a pedlar, and believed she lamed him. An investigation followed and the situation spiralled into a massive witchcraft trial, with other residents being arrested and a nine-year-old girl giving evidence against her family and neighbours. Nine of the ‘witches’ were hanged at Lancaster Castle.

This is a horror story fit for Halloween. Not because there is any ‘devil worship’ or witches on broomsticks or wild cackling, but because a lethal blend of hysteria, superstition, paranoia and persecution got whipped up into a frenzy.

On a happier note, Pendle Hill is also noted as the location where Quaker founder George Fox experienced a spiritual vision.

Back to modern day and, thankfully, more tolerant times.

At Barrowford’s information centre, the woman at the tourism desk was very helpful, giving us not only a map and directions on how to reach Pendle, but details about a sculpture and witch trail.

I always picture Pendle Hill as nearby but it always seemed an awkward place to reach from where I live. We have tried twice before to reach its dizzy heights of 557m. Once, it was snowing. The other time it was pouring with rain. On neither occasion did we reach the spellbinding hill, but only the thereabouts. Perhaps there was a ‘curse’ and we will never reach it?

Barley wasn’t too far from Barrowford and thanks to the helpful information assistant, we recognised the landmarks as we drove past, including a statue of Alice Nutter, one of the witches (or supposed witches, as more likely) in Roughlee.

 

Fellow ramblers know the feeling of reaching a destination and then thinking, have I the right change for the car park? Luckily, Barley car park is very amenable, boasting many spaces, a charming café/souvenir shop, adequate toilets – and parking is a mere £1!

Past the children’s play area, pub, houses and a stall selling free range eggs… Onto a footpath along a river and lo, there is the route to Pendle Hill.

Simon warned me that, on the map, there were tight contour lines further on, meaning a steepness. But I forgot about that as, not long after we started, I sloshed and trampled about in mud and, humiliatingly, even slipped and fell. Embarrassingly, a couple shouted over, are you okay? Yes thank you, I muttered, embarrassed. S, having strided 10 miles ahead (or so it seemed), headed back. I didn’t know you had fallen, he apologised. I grudgingly accepted his apology.

Thankfully the boots were waterproof.

Anyway, no matter, I conquered the soaking wet mud which had no right to trip me up. Now to conquer the steep incline itself. I have dreams (Illusions? Fantasies?) of walking up Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. Not like those crazily fit people who can do the two plus Snowdon in one day. How is that even possible? No, just one at a time for me. I’m not in a rush.

A friend later told me that there were other, more gradual, ways to climb up Pendle Hill. But by then it was too late. Every step was hard. It’s not even a massive hill, 1827ft/557m, but this section was gruelling. I thought longingly of Fairfield Horseshoe’s gradual ascent (certainly in comparison to this incline) until finally I made it. I was at the top!

We walked down a more gradual route. At one point, wondering if we were going the right way. But we finally reached a stream which we followed, ambling along to Barley.

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A cup of tea in the cafe later and we then set off on a Pendle Sculpture Trail. The path takes you past Lower Black Moss Reservoir and stunning scenes of Pendle Hill, then it’s uphill (ah, more steepness!!) until we reach Aitken Wood, located on a slope. By itself, Aitken Wood is a beautiful setting, but here nature meets art, culture and history in one swoop with the Sculpture Trail. We meet a life-size witchfinder, spot metal bats, owl and giant spider’s web and admire The Quaker Tree among many other artworks. Plaques have also been created, illustrating each of the witches. If you pick up a Sculpture Trail leaflet, you could even take part in a competition to win a hotel stay.

So two walks in one this, surprisingly pleasant, winter’s day. So enjoyable that we ventured back a month later. Ironically the weather was worse in March.

I fell again in the mud. Great. Why has it not dried yet?

Snow fell, we turned back half way – and then it stopped and we headed towards the hill again. The hill was as steep as last time. I was as unfit as last time.

I, wimp that I am, asked if we could turn back because of the potential snow.

We were about 10 steps from the top at this point.

We carried on.

At the summit, something was preventing us from walking straight in one line, something threw Simon’s hat away and he, rather comically, had to run after it, and something was trying to push us over the edge of the hill.

Be warned. The hill is possessed – by a terrible gale-force wind. Thankfully, the wind and snow gradually left us alone as we trekked down the path to the cafe where a mug of refreshing tea and a slice of delicious cake awaited us.

Picture courtesy of Simon Hunter20180317_125724