Friday, 15 October 2010

Sedbergh walking holiday, 11 - 15 October 2010

I'd decided to try one of Stockport Walkers' famed walking holidays. This one was at Sedbergh in the Howgill Hills, based at Thorns Hall. About forty members of Stockport Walkers attended and as usual the holiday was over subscribed, with more applying than there were places for (the places were allocated on a first-come first-served basis). We were easily able to take all the rooms at Thorns Hall for the week.

As ever, please click on any of the pictures in this post for a larger image. And click again for a larger one yet!

Thorns Hall, Sedbergh

I had managed to book a single room, and, with its second door opening onto a garden with a bench that caught the afternoon sun; it was delightful.

My room, with its second door opening onto the garden with bench....

....The view from the bench

We arrived at Sebergh on Monday morning in time for a walk around the town and lunch in the garden of Thorns Hall. At 1pm we departed on a local walk to the lower slopes of Winder, Sedburgh's local hill. Wainwright says that "Winder is to Sedbergh as The Matterhorn is to Zermatt". Thankfully, Winder is considerably more diminutive than that Swiss mountain, but it will still provide us a challenging climb to the summit tomorrow.

The weather couldn't have been better; brilliant low winter sunshine from a cloud-free sky, and this was to last into Tuesday as well.

On Monday night I walked into Sedbergh from the house and was amazed by a stunningly clear night sky; the Milky Way was a distinct white arc overhead, an edge-on view into our own galaxy. There were so many stars that picking out the familiar constellations among the millions of pinpricks of distant suns was not easy. I wish we had night skies like that in Cheshire, where, especially looking north, town and street lighting pollute the heavens leaving only the prominent objects visible.

Each day, three separate walks were planned, each with a leader. As with all Stockport Walkers' walks, these were designated A, B, and C, with 'A' being the most demanding. I usually join the Wednesday 'A' walks, but in deference to the difficult terrain of the Howgills and the fact that we'd be walking every day, I settled for the 'B' walks this week. In this part of the world, even the 'B' walks were pretty demanding!

The first 'real' walk of the week was the ascent of Winder on Tuesday.

Looking down on Sedbergh from the flanks of Winder

Climbing the lower slopes

The group spreads out as we climb higher

The group on the summit of Winder - on a fabulous day!

The view from the summit across the Lune Valley to the Langdale Pikes in the Lake District. If you double-click the image to maximise the size, the obvious scar of the M6 motorway can clearly be seen; the London - Glasgow West Coast Main Line railway immediately this side of it (all but invisible) is far less intrusive on the landscape. The viaduct in the middle distance is at Lowgill, and used to carry the Tebay to Skipton railway which served Sedbergh, and closed in 1965. To see a steam train crossing Lowgill viaduct and the scene then moving forward to show the same location after closure of the line, click on this link:

In the valley of the river Rawthey, the group enjoys an afternoon tea stop. Winder is in the background; did we really climb all the way up there?

Further along the Rawthey valley, the river Dee joins from the south

The evening entertainment at Thorns Hall was a couple of local folk singers. Later, some of the ladies who had heard me enthusing about last night's sky insisted I take them out into the garden to see the wonders overhead. Though not quite as clear and distinct as Monday night, it was still pretty impressive. Below Cassiopeia, our neighbouring galaxy 'Andromeda' was just visible as a greyish smudge. Before this week, I don't think I've ever seen that before without the aid of binoculars. Pleiades was coming into view low on the eastern horizon by late evening, presaging the approach of winter.

Wednesday's walk was from Hawes, about 16 miles south of Sedbergh. The super weather was gone, and the day dawned dull and misty with low cloud on the hills. We climbed up from Gayle in the cloud to Wether Fell. On the top, we negotiated a typical peat bog landscape with 'sink holes' (deep holes where the limestone has eroded) scattered about. By the time we reached the Cam High Road (a high level Roman road across the fell) the cloud was beginning to lift and the views open up.

The Cam High Road over Wether Fell stretches into the still-murky distance

Looking down on Hawes in the Ure valley, from Burtersett Pasture

The group on the hillside above Hawes

That night at Thorns Hall, our team won the quiz!

On Thursday it was my turn to lead. The weather was dull but dry, and we started from a car park about five minute's drive out of Sedbergh. I took the group along the Clough river to follow the Sedgwick Trail which demonstrates the interesting rock formations of the Dent Fault. This geological feature marks the divide between the high rounded hills of the Howgills and the Lake District and the flatter more plateaued landscape of the Dales.

We climbed out of the Clough valley in a loop to the north to Sarthwaite, then back down to the river for our lunch stop, enjoying the peace disturbed only by the babbling waters of the Clough river. Our route continued to Farfield Mill where we crossed the Clough again, to start climbing the south side of the valley. The cultivated fields gave way to open moorland at Frostrow Fell, and the path was far from obvious. The going was tough with soft tussocky ground, spongy wet mosses, and many small streams to cross and an undulating landscape. The soft going was beginning to tire some members of the group (and this was our fourth day of walking so the cumulative fatigue was showing) so I decided to cut the walk short. I pioneered a route north back to the road across a few miles of boggy moorland which was tough going itself, but not as tough as continuing the walk for its planned length.

We arrived back at the cars a tired but happy group after this last walk of the week. I was whacked by now and had an early night and so missed out on the 'country dancing' at Thorns Hall (oh dear what a pity.. never mind!).

Friday was probably the worst weather of the week, with rain threatening. Some intrepid folk were going to do a short walk at Dent on the way home, but enjoyable though the week had been, I was 'walked out' and set off after breakfast for home.

A tiring but most enjoyable week. Wonder where next year's will be?

No comments:

Post a Comment