Author Archives for Richard Jennings

The Bog Monster of Birkby Moor

May 31, 2024 10:57 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Looking over to the west from the Romano-British farmstead on Barnscar, an enclosed marshy depression on Birkby Moor defends the next objective, Stainton Tower. Locally known as the “Pepperpot”, the tower commands the horizon and stands on the last hill and climb on the Lakeland Way. The view from here, looking out to the Irish Sea, is your reward for all your effort over the last twelve days of walking. To get there though, you must survive the Bog of Birkby Moor, and a marsh pool located in the centre of the walled quagmire. Located on a broad raised terrace on Birkby Moor, known as Barnscar, between the steep craggy peaks of Birkby Fell to the east and the steep-sided Muncaster Valley to the north-west, are the remains of three ancient settlements. This Scheduled Monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of a large prehistoric cairnfield within which are two prehistoric hut circle settlements, 15 prehistoric funerary cairns, a Romano-British farmstead and trackway, and a medieval shieling. From the terrace of Barnscar the Romano-British trackway is well-defined, and can be easily followed across the western reaches of Birkby Moor. At the lowest point of the depression a wall is reached that forms a large boundary around an ancient livestock grazing pasture. Today the pasture is still used for grazing livestock, but these are not the only beasts to roam this enclosure. Lurking beneath the purple moor-grass and rush, a serpentine-like creature waits for any walker that wanders off the track. Legend has it that “The Bog Monster of Birkby Moor” coils its body around the legs of cattle until they fall into the marsh, and eventually succumb to the depths of the waterlogged peat. Over time their bodies become mummified larders for the creature to devour during lean times. The wettest area of the marsh is just beyond this lonely tree on some raised ground in the centre of the enclosed pasture. Where the trackway enters the wettest area of the marsh, the bog monster has churned up the peat below to create a ‘marsh pool’ and a trap for any unsuspecting walkers or animals that venture this way. To avoid the trap walk across three or four metres over on the left, and take advantage of the tall tussocks that provide a safer passage. Over on the right the marsh is mostly made up of a raft of moss...

Gasgale Gill Alternative Route

May 16, 2024 8:54 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Seen from Lanthwaite Green, Gasgale Gill appears as a gateway to the unknown. It is inviting, but it does contain a few obstacles. At its foot the ravine is narrow and twisting, hiding its true beauty and keeping the walker guessing of what lies ahead. The usual Lakeland Way route turns left after crossing the footbridge and follows a high-level traverse above the gill. However, for a more interesting route that follows the waterfalls and cascades of Liza Beck, turn right after the footbridge. The ravine is very steep-sided, and both traverses include some rocky sections, however, it’s the lower traverse (purple) that should be respected the most and should be avoided in damp conditions. In dry conditions, the short rocky scrambles are a fun playground for the family. Initially the path undulates through heather and over some small rock sections. After a short distance the main waterfall is reached. This is a wonderful location to bathe those aching feet, especially during very hot weather. Note the rock face on the left; this short but steep scramble is the main obstacle on the alternative route and should only be attempted when the rock is dry. Just beyond the rock face the path reappears and continues along Liza Beck. Don’t forget to look down though, or you’ll miss Turtle Rock taking a dip! The deepest pool of all is located a little further up the gill from Turtle Rock. The rocky sections are now complete and the path is much easier to negotiate. However, care still needs to be taken on some of these scree slopes. Some sections of the path have given way to small landslips. This is more apparent deeper in Gasgale Gill and beyond this ‘alternative’ section, where much larger landslips have taken the path completely away. Jaclyn is seen here approaching the point where the lower traverse (alternative route) merges with the higher traverse (Lakeland Way path). A sneak peak around a rock face reveals the continuation of Gasgale Gill, where it widens and rises more gently to higher ground and beyond to Coledale Hause. Emily, Tika and Jaclyn, however, seem keen on walking the whole route to Braithwaite! I finally managed to gather up all members of the Jennings family, and now we are heading back to Lanthwaite Green via the higher traverse. These following images will show the difference in height between the higher traverse...

Camping the Lakeland Way – Days 1 to 4

March 7, 2024 5:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Saturday 2nd September 2023Day 1Ravenglass to Wasdale Head Inn – 14.5 miles 08:00“I woke up this morning feeling fine, with something special on my mind!” That was me humming to myself 48 hours ago, having just looked at the weather forecast for the next two weeks. One hour later, after begging my wife to set me free, I rang the boss to give him the bad news. I then spent the rest of the day planning the itinerary and pre-booking campsites and evening meals. The following day my wife and I were running around like headless chickens buying essentials and getting all my gear ready; my poor family, the things I put them through. However, with their help and of course the boss for giving me time off at such short notice, my Lakeland Way adventure would never have started. I’m now in the process of putting my gear in the car ready for my wife to take me to Ravenglass on the west coast of Cumbria. It’ll not be easy to leave my family behind as I’ve never spent this much time away from them; maybe my wife and daughter are looking forward to a break for freedom? or will they pine for my return? It’s probably best not knowing either way! 11:30Here I am at the Ravenglass & Eskdale Steam Railway turntable, the starting point of the Lakeland Way. Believe it or not, I’m actually pulling my stomach in on this shot. Maybe I’ll look a tad different at the end? On my Coast to Coast walk in 2011, I actually put on a stone in weight, but that was with the luxury of using a luggage transfer company and staying in posh hotels and b&bs. However, this walk is going to be very different as it will include carrying all my gear and camping each night. So off I go leaving my wife to run the fort for twelve days. I’ve only walked a few hundred yards out of the village and I’m already living off the land by stuffing my face with succulent blackberries; maybe I didn’t need to carry all this food after all? It looks like the crumbling walls and arches of the Roman Bath house have gained some temporary supports after recent concerns of collapse. Walking over the grassy hill of the old Muncaster deer forest is as pleasant as ever; don’t forget...

The Story So Far….

January 3, 2024 10:10 am Published by Leave your thoughts

3rd August 2023 – The Big LaunchThe website had been ‘live’ for a year, but folk were starting to come across the site while searching online, so it seemed the time was right to share it on social media. John Falcus, who had searched online for a walk from Patterdale, had come across the site by accident and contacted me on 20th June 2023, to say he was “hooked” on the route and was already in the “advanced” stages of booking his accommodation. John completed the walk on Saturday 29th July, and is officially the first person to walk the whole route in one go. I was absolutely delighted and privileged to cross the River Esk and walk with him for the last mile to Ravenglass. After following John’s adventure and seeing him complete the walk, this was the ‘kick up the butt’ I needed to launch the Lakeland Way and finally share it with the world. Up to this point only a few of my close friends knew about the project; people that had followed the process and provided much encouragement and guidance over the last few years. Even though there was still lots of content to add to the website, there was enough information for any person wanting to give this long-distance walk a go. So, on 3rd August I nervously shared the Lakeland Way on social media, and to be honest I was totally overjoyed by the positive feedback I received that evening. Some favourite comments and feedback: “Fantastic achievement in devising this Richard. Great to see you unveiling it. Can’t wait to walk it.”George Kitching “Richard – you probably won’t remember me, but in 2012 I walked the Coast to Coast and you provided me with some maps and advice for my first ever long-distance walk. I did it and raised £1500 for the Miscarriage Association and two years later I completed the Hadrian’s Wall path with my father – a fantastic father/son bonding experience. The walk you have created looks beautiful and I am inspired by your positivity and kindness. I think it’s so important for our own mental and emotional health to be getting outdoors and doing what you do – very inspiring! I just wanted to write this to say thank you and well done. What an amazing thing to have created this and then to share it with all of us. I...

LW Update – Alternative Routes and Tweaks

October 20, 2023 10:28 am Published by Leave your thoughts

During a wonderful trip camping the Lakeland Way in September 2023, I took the opportunity to record each section again with my GPS device, and also take note of any adjustments that I thought could be made to enhance the route. To give two examples, on Day 12, the routes over Barnscar and up to Stainton Tower are much improved. Also, after further reflection, I’ve included some alternative routes on the PDF maps to avoid areas where weather conditions could have an impact on your progress. Because of these changes, any GPX files or PDF maps downloaded before 20.10.23 should be replaced from the following page: Downloads Crossing the River Esk over the stepping stones near St Catherine’s Church in Eskdale, was always a little tricky; not much sunlight penetrates the canopy of trees along the river, so the stones tend to be slippery most of the time, and it doesn’t take many days of rain for these stones to be submerged. However, during a storm in spring of 2022, two of the boulders dislodged from their position making the crossing even more difficult. It is not known if or when these stones will be put back in line, but a safe alternative route (purple) is to cross the river a little further upstream over Girder Bridge. At first glance you may wonder why the Lakeland Way doesn’t carry on down the road to Dockray? Well, after walking 5 miles along the rough terrain of the Old Coach Road, the grassy pastures leading to Matterdale Church are very rewarding on the feet. This route is of course optional, hence the alternative, but personally a visit to the 16th Century church is worth the extra half mile of walking. A pleasant roadside path along the A5091 then leads to Dockray. Please note that Matterdale Church, as the crow flies, is the furthest point from Ravenglass on the Lakeland Way. Like Matterdale Church, a visit to Walna Scar Quarries is an optional diversion. If time allows, exploring these old quarries and ruins is highly recommended. Traversing Wallowbarrow Gorge is one of the highlights of the Lakeland Way, and is highly recommended if the conditions are suitable. At one section the path is very narrow above a steep drop, so care should be taken especially if the ground is wet. On arrival at Fickle Steps (stepping stones) over the River Duddon, a decision...

Crossing the River Esk

August 18, 2023 2:04 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

The combination of fording the River Esk and the beach walk to Ravenglass, are the grand finale of the Lakeland Way. However, a low-tide window is required to be able to cross the river at the Eskmeals Viaduct, and to continue the mile or so to the Market Cross in the centre of the coastal village. The length of this window is subjective, and can be 1 hour (comfortable) or 2 hours (doable) each side of low tide; both being very safe, and in my own experience the water level didn’t reach above my knees at 1.5 hours before low tide. With all this in mind, it is important to plan your Lakeland Way adventure when there is a low tide in the afternoon, due to this crossing being at the end of day 12. Ideally, a low tide at around 4pm would be my preference. Tide TimesThe tide times tell you what time the water will be at its highest point (high tide) and at its lowest point (low tide). In the UK there are usually two high tides and two low tides in a 24 hour period. The time at which the high and low tide occur will change day to day. For example, if the tide was at its lowest at 3pm today, the lowest tide is likely to be later tomorrow. Tide times are generally available for the next 7 days for around 500 port locations around the UK, and can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy. However, due to storm surges and other factors, predicting tide times a long way into the future could be less accurate. Websites that provide weekly or monthly tide To plan your walk way ahead, QuickTide provides a two-year tide Although tide times are generally reliable, long periods of bad weather can cause the sea to swell and push tides into the estuaries before the predicted times, so it’s important to look at the conditions and make an informed decision on the day. Other factors may also play a part, for example you could be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances or you may have misjudged the time it’s taken to walk the last day. It is at Stainton Tower where a decision can be made on which route to take to Ravenglass, whether to continue on the Lakeland Way to Waberthwaite and Newbiggin, and then fording...

LW Update – Ascent of The Knott

August 9, 2023 5:36 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

There has been a small route change on Day 7 between Hayeswater Gill and The Knott. Any GPX or maps downloaded before 09.08.23 should be replaced by the following files: GPX route: DownloadPDF maps: Download On the map above, which was surveyed in 1859, you can see a section of the old packhorse track between the hamlet of Hartsop and The Knott. After crossing Hayeswater Gill, the course of the track takes a zig-zag climb up the steep western shoulder of The Knott. The track then continues and merges with the High Street Roman Road at the Straits of Riggindale. This route was a vital trading link between the valley of Patterdale and its neighbouring valleys of Mardale and Kentmere. On today’s maps, the route is still shown as a bridleway, but sadly a large section of the track, beyond the footbridge, has been lost to time and only a faint trace of it can be seen. On closer inspection, a few old cairns, partially hidden by long grass, can be spotted along the course of the old track. On the map above I’ve illustrated the two paths that exist today on the western shoulder of The Knott. Paths like these, which are more direct, are formed when a route is more popular as a way off the fells and less so as a way up. As a result of this, the zig-zag section of the bridleway became undesirable. Initially the Lakeland Way followed the direct path from the weir at Hayeswater, but after many days of persistent rain the crossing here can be difficult to negotiate and result in very wet feet. It was John Falcus, the first person to walk the whole of the Lakeland Way in one go, who notified me of this problem after he finished his walk in July 2023. As a result of this information provided by John, and a recce of the paths by myself on the 8th August, the Lakeland Way now takes a route over the footbridge and follows the direct path that runs parallel with the wall. It is a shame that this part of the old packhorse route is lost. Instead, we are left with a laborious ascent. Back to the top

John’s Adventure

August 2, 2023 11:13 am Published by 1 Comment

Introduction“I happened to come across this walk purely by accident, but within minutes of reading all the information provided I was “hooked”. There was no way that I was not going to take on what I perceived to be a wonderful challenge in Lakeland. After a number of e-mails and telephone conversations with Richard, the walk devisor, it became apparent that I might just be the first person to take on and complete the walk in a continuous loop. Not wanting to miss the chance of “being that person”, on Saturday 22nd July, I began what I hoped would be a superb adventure. Why don’t you come along with me and find out how it went? Oh, you might just want to bring a coat!” Saturday 22nd July 2023Day 1Ravenglass to Wasdale Head – 14.5 miles “Leaving Ravenglass station at 1:00pm, the first few miles to Boot are relatively flat through woodland tracks. It left me feeling a bit complacent and I even stopped for a coffee break at Dalesgarth station. It was here that the rain decided that it should join me on my walk. Leaving Boot and crossing Eskdale Moor, any complacency you may have felt is suddenly shaken from you, and you’re reminded that you need to respect the fells and hills as they can be wild and unforgiving. Eskdale Moor was very challenging, with lots of rainwater coming off the tops and you certainly had to keep your wits about you trying to cross the becks. Some parts of the path were like streams and circumnavigating the end of Burnmooor Tarn was fun; even the duck board was underwater. Worse was still to come though crossing the stream near the campsite in Down-in-the-Dale, as there was no choice but to go straight through with water at calf height. I arrived at Wasdale Head very wet at around 6pm. I set up my tent in the small field opposite the pub; you have to book in at the pub first and pay a very reasonable £6, and they give you a tag to tie onto your tent along with the code for the shower block. A nice meal and a couple of pints later I was ready for bed. I have enjoyed every minute of it so far, and looking forward to the next bit. If you are still wanting to continue with me I’ll see you...

Castle Crag War Memorial

July 5, 2023 6:11 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

“The highest point is a boss of rock, and this is crowned by a professionally-made round flat-topped cairn, below which, set in the rock, is a commemorative tablet: a war memorial to the men of Borrowdale, effective and imaginative.”Alfred Wainwright, The North Western Fells, 1963 The cairn has since been shaped into a small wind shelter. Castle Crag was given to theNational Trust in memory ofJOHN HAMER2nd Lieut 6th KSLI Born July 8 1897Killed in action March 22 1918Also ofThe following men of BorrowdaleWho died for the same cause2nd Lieut H.E. Layland R.E.Pte G. Bird 1st Border RegtPte E. J. Boow 2nd Border RegtPte J.H. Dover 11th Border RegtPte J. Edmondson 1st Border RegtPte F. Hindmoor 7th Border RegtPte W. Nicholson 5th Border RegtPte T. Richardson 6th Border RegtPte J.W. Rigg 8th Border RegtPte A.E. Wilson Kings Own Royal Lancasters In 1918, Sir William Hamer and his wife, Agnes, purchased the land on top of Castle Crag for £150 from the executors of the Estate of Colonel CV Conway Gordon, as a memorial to their son, John, aged 20, who was killed in France in March 1918, during the First World War. In 1920, William and Agnes handed over the land to the National Trust, with a request that a plaque affixed to the summit rock on Castle Crag to be solely in memory of their son. However, shortly before his death on 28th May 1920, Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, one of the founder members of the National Trust, suggested that the dedication should also include the ten men of Borrowdale who also died in the First World War. Canon Rawnsley was also a Chaplain to the King and Chaplain to the Border Regiment Territorials (and the army rank of Colonel). The plaque, made from local green slate, was erected on 11th June 1921. William Heaton Hamer was born in Leeds in 1862, the eldest son of John Hamer, J.P. He was a scholar of Christ’s College, Cambridge and graduated twelfth wrangler in 1882. He adopted the profession of medicine, and was Kirkes Scholar and Lawrence Scholar at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School. He qualified M.R.C.S. in 1886 and graduated M.B. in the following year. Hamer became a member of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1889 and became a M.D. in 1890. He entered the medical service of the London County Council in 1892 and joined the...

In the Beginning….

June 1, 2023 7:08 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

For as long as I can remember I always wanted to develop a long-distance walk, either a long linear route along the gritstone edges and the steep-sided limestone valleys of the Peak District, or a circular route traversing the Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District. It was in those early years of walking in my back garden, the Dark Peak, that I first became acquainted with OS maps, and realised the joy of joining the popular routes and creating longer days out in the countryside. This was very rewarding for me, mentally and physically. From an early age, I was very creative and full of imagination, which is probably the reason why I was good at Art in my school years, and had a successful career as a cabinet maker. However, it wasn’t until I was well into my 30’s that I truly embraced walking and found a way of escaping life’s dilemmas. Although exploring the hills and escarpments of the Peak District was the beginning of a new pastime for me, and one that would eventually take over my life, it would be a lovely calm September day in 2009 that completely changed my life forever. I skipped off the train at Ravenglass donning a new waterproof jacket, walking boots and a rucksack, and headed for the youth hostel in the valley of Wasdale. This was the Lake District, a whole new landscape for me to explore and stories to discover. While descending from Irton Fell, I looked ahead and witnessed something quite breathtaking. A patchwork of greens dominated the valley floor, but my eyes were soon drawn towards a long expanse of blue surrounded by shielding giants. Yewbarrow, with the appearance of the arched back of a diving whale, receives most attention across Wast Water, while a vigilant Great Gable, seated at the head of this amphitheatre like a Cumbrian king on his throne, invites you to enter its secret kingdom. This is Lakeland, and I am amongst new friends. The next morning I headed back to Ravenglass by following the course of the River Irt, and taking with me an overwhelming sense of spiritual and forward-thinking enlightenment. I wasn’t sad to be leaving, but instead I was already planning my next adventure. I returned to the Lake District the following year, in September 2010, to walk Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Path. To walk across the country...