Category Archives: Walking

I Would Walk 828 Miles…

Found this quote in Patrick Baker’s The Cairngorms. William MacGillivray has transformed my understanding of both being a walker, and the value of the British Museum.

MacGillivray’s commitment to life as a field naturalist was whole-hearted, and as a result he became a prodigious walker. At the age of 23 he decided to visit the British Museum in London, walking a circuitous route from his home in Aberdeen, covering a remarkable distance of 828 miles in just eight weeks, an average of almost 15 miles every day.

Raised on Harris, MacGillivray (1796-1852) was rather extraordinary, not just as an ornithologist and writer of natural history, but maybe possibly one of the first professors to undertake field trips. Awesome. Read the riverofthings blog, there are way more fun facts, like there is a hooded crow named after him because he kicked it with James Audobon and more. Much more. As you’d expect from anyone who walked 828 miles to the British Library.

Baker, Patrick (2021) The Cairngorms: A Secret History. Birlinn: Edinburgh.

A New Year’s Light across Ingleborough Pavements

We saw many sides of Ingleborough, but the slopes closest to Horton in Ribblesdale we walked twice. The pavements of Moughton scar are incredible in both mist and sun, the first day the clouds and mist dropped down on us as we picked our way across the limestone of Moughton edge.

But on the this first day of 2022 we went walking higher up Ingleborough and the sun emerged now and then to light up stone and grass and sky. It was a day of wonder. May the sun continue to light up this year of changes and beginnings.

So glorious.

Equally glorious, the millions of years of ice, water, sand and seismic activity that created this place, that brought us here. My geology book had a most lovely illustration.

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The Ingleton Waterfalls

Our final day of 2021, a hard year, long year, covid year but also a year that brought great change for 2022 and many good things. The day dawned wet, with low cloud. It has been raining heavily. Water thundered down with wild force enough to take the soul and cast it up into the air light as foam.

I can still hear it in my ears.

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Settle to Victoria Cave and the Craven Lime Kilns

Such a splendid walk today, although we weren’t sure about weather. The wind had finally died down, but we left the cottage in a fine drizzle to catch the train down to Settle. An incredible breakfast at the Naked Man Cafe and straight up the hills.

The sun graced us, lighting up the world below.

It only appeared now and then, but drew extraordinary colours out of land and sky. Blues I have never seen and clouds like feathers that touched the earth.

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Christmas Eve Walk: New Houses

I miss going to Arizona to spend Christmas with my mum, but this lovely cottage, Fawber Cottage, in the Yorkshire Dales is a good second best. Just released from Covid quarantine — I caught the stupid virus at our Christmas lunch, which was also doubling as my going away lunch.

The irony is not lost on me.

So I was stuck home until Christmas Eve, and even with trains cancelled and delayed, managed to get to New Houses to meet Mark in time for a walk. Just up the road from Horton-in-Ribblesdale, it is beautiful here. We walked further up the dale, up to Sell Gill where the stream pours into the earth, swalled up by the cave beneath the limestone.

The wind has surely been wuthering though.

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Bristol Autumn

It is actually winter I think, 4th December…winter, right? It’s winter in Manchester. It snowed and everything. I take the train south and time moves backwards to an earlier season.

Autumn is one of my favourites. Crisp air and blue skies with a hint of gold, the glow of changing leaves. Ashton court was beautiful. Open space, I desperately needed open space. Ancient oaks. Deer. It was warm enough tucked into the back of the golden stones collecting the sun to enjoy an ice cream.

We walked home across Clifton bridge, down through town. We passed hundreds of bikers dressed as santas (and elves, and reindeer and assorted holiday characters) driving jubilant and loud through the streets.

Priddy Nine Barrows and the Priddy Circles

Os map of Chewton Mendip to Priddy to Wells walk

This walk was splendid, one of our best yet. We caught the 376 to Chewton Mendip (site of an earlier not so great walk before I knew you should never go anywhere without an OS map or you will get lost and miss all the things), stopped at the Mendip Pantry to pick up some incredible pies, scotch eggs, lush baked goods of all sorts. Highly recommended. We ate our first pie alongside the church, which is so unexpectedly grand. It has Saxon origins, was rebuilt in the 12th century, most of what you can see was built in the 1400s by Carthusians and patched and rebuilt again across the centuries and into the 1800s (but look at the door, I mean just look at it)

Be still my heart. The tower is from the 15th century.

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Skipton Castle and Woods

A lovely, warm, sunshiney weekend everyone said, so off we went like the magical, spontaneous creatures we are. Minimal extras, as the spontaneous non-car life demands (but more about that later). A quick search of places not too far, well suited for country walks, with a train station and a reasonable room for two nights. Not the easiest of combinations to find, but Skipton was brilliant.

The land orginally belonged to Earl Edwin, son of Leofwine and brother to Leofric of Mercia according to an 1873 history of Skipton. This is mostly a rather boring account about lords and ladies, has some interesting lists of goods and lands taxed and the meaning of wealth. But I love this description of the castle’s founding:

After the forfeiture of Earl Edwin, the first grantee of his lands in Craven was Robert. de Romille, a Norman adventurer of ancient family. In his choice of a situation for the seat of his barony, Romille had nothing but the face of Nature to direct him. There had, unquestionably, been a Saxon manse at Bolton, for the occasional residence of the lord; but it was now dilapidated; and though the sequestration of that favoured place would have attracted a monk, and its beauties a man of taste, yet it wanted two of the first ingredients in the residence of an ancient baron—elevation and natural strength. These Romille found. on the brink of a perpendicular rock at Skipton, which furnished an impregnable barrier to the north; while a moderate declivity to the south, equally rocky, and therefore incapable of being undermined, afforded sufficient room for the enclosure of a spacious “bailley,” the ramparts of which would command the plain beneath.

The erection of this castle elevated the place at once from a poor dependent village to a respectable town. In times of turbulence and disorder, the inhabitants of the adjoining country would crowd for protection under its walls. Many privileges also would be granted by the lords, many advantageous offices enjoyed by their immediate dependents…

— An extract from the History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven in the County of York by Thomas Dunham Whitaker, 3rd Edition Published in 1878

Skipton Castle is splendid, increasingly well-fortified over the years to defend against incursions by the Scots by the Clifford family, whose principal family seat it served until 1676. Of Lady Margaret Russell (1560-1616), who married George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland in 1577, the website states: ‘deeply interested in alchemy she discovered many excellent medicines‘. Looking her up I didn’t find much more about that, but she was also the patron of Emilia Lanier, first woman to style herself a professional poet (and possibly Shakespeare’s dark lady). She enjoyed being a mistress more than a wife. I would know more of them. Lady Russell’s daughter Anne is most celebrated in the placards around the castle itself, and planted the lovely old yew that stands in the castle courtyard in 1659. They grow so slowly.

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