Walking Holiday to The Fat Lamb Tuesday 16 May to Friday 19 May
Twenty two members with partners made the return visit to the Fat Lamb after a successful stay in 2016. The first walk on Tuesday 16 May started from the visitor centre at the Ribblehead viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle railway. Rain was constant from Sandbach until we ventured out on the walk; at that point the rain stopped and we saw no more of it until the end of the last walk on Friday.
There was much excitement at Ribblehead in anticipation of the arrival in the afternoon of the Flying Scotsman a steam locomotive built in 1924 and recently refurbished at great expense. The challenge now was to return from the walk in time to find a good position to take a picture.
Eighteen walkers set off uphill and crossed areas of limestone pavement where people amused themselves by jumping into shallow holes to pose for pictures. There were larger holes but they tended to be full of gushing water. Lunch was scheduled at the church in Chapel le Dale but just before we arrived we were approached by a man on a mission. A friend from Bradford had lost her border collie Shema during a walk the previous Sunday and he had come to find it. We were now recruited to the search but we saw no sign of it.
After lunch we followed the river Ribble back to the viaduct where the keen photographers found what they hoped would be good spots for their pictures. The train duly came through without stopping and some pictures were taken, while some failed. The party then left for the Fat Lamb. After dinner we occupied the bar. A cat from the hotel had gone missing two days earlier and a reward poster alerted the public to the £50 reward for its return. The missing cat appeared at the window and was promptly seized and locked away. Who gets the reward?
The day started with warm sunshine but clouds soon rolled in and stayed for the rest of the day. After collecting lunch from Kirby Stephen we continued to Dufton where our cars filled the village car park. The path past the caravan park took us to Dufton Ghyll where a stream runs through a quarry now abandoned and overgrown by mature trees and bluebells carpeting the ground. It would have looked quite magical with sunshine filtering through the leaves, but nevertheless, it is a superb place to have your ashes scattered.
Our goal was High Cup Nick – an enormous U-shaped valley carved by glacial action. There are two ways to approach this and stand at the head of the valley to get the true impression of its magnificence. One way is to walk up the valley and see the wall at the head constantly in view, knowing that you will have to scramble up it. The alternative is to walk round the side and see it first from the top, where it comes as an impressive surprise. Ralph decided our party wasn’t up to scrambling so we did the roundabout route. This involves so many false crests that walkers think they will never see the top. To delay the surprise of the view down the valley we took lunch in a ruined building sitting on wobbly stones.
Everyone was very impressed by the view down the valley leaving a memory to treasure, which was just as well because the path back to Dufton was mainly made up of boulders loosely scattered about. When we arrived at Dufton a huge Bernese Mountain with its brave handler welcomed us back. Fortunately the dog was very well-behaved and not hungry.
Wednesday in Ravenstonedale sees the weekly bus to Barnard Castle so the non-walkers made the effort to visit the market. It can now be revealed that the market there has suffered like the market in Sandbach; avoid it.
Kevin moved a chair to sit down and the back fell off in his hand. Fortunately the compensation claim was settled amicably and the evening proceeded with the quiz. Ian asked the questions that Julie had prepared and teams were selected by drawing lots. The team that included Ralph won by a large margin, probably because Ralph had drunk more than anyone else.
The hotel staff announced that we might see the Northern Lights but, with the clouds absent, the only sights were the stars.
After the usual trip to Kirby Stephen for the necessities for lunch, the cars set off for Muker but a diversion for road works left our arrival at the riverside layby in chaos. When all had assembled we set in sunshine for the footbridge over the river Swale. Tom and Lesley had assured us that the walk included only one uphill section. As we climbed at length out of the valley we wondered what their idea of an uphill section looked like.
We were permitted to stop for a drink outside a lodge belonging to a billionaire who had founded a chain of duty-free shops. Neither he nor his staff came to offer us refreshments; that’s how he became a billionaire.
On arrival in Gunnerside the steepness of the promised uphill section became clear. Several walkers decided that lunch in Gunnerside looked attractive so we left them there on the understanding that the survivors of the climb would walk back to Muker with them. The promised uphill section went on until the threat of mutiny allowed us a lunch stop overlooking the valley.
After lunch a downhill section took us to the site of the Sir Francis lead mine and from there we followed the river back to Gunnerside. With the party back to full strength we followed the Swale back to Muker observing fish leaping out of the water for the abundant flies. We failed to see any red squirrels in spite of the many signs indicating they were present. In fact we didn’t see a single squirrel of any colour all week.
Dinner had to be postponed because we had had such a full day and this pushed back the start of the musical evening. Keith, Christine and Paul wielded their instruments and the energetic non-musicians tried to sing along in tune. With Liz the barmaid on the floor doing actions to match the words of the songs the evening continued until half past eleven.
For various reasons the number of walkers on the last day dropped to 13. This was a blessing as the layby we parked in (after the Kirby Stephen stop) was not too big. We climbed over the wall into a field and made our way to Wharton Hall a medieval fortified manor house. It has been refurbished to its present state as a private dwelling so we didn’t climb over it.
Moving further along the valley of the river Eden we came across Lammerside Castle. The inhabitants of Wharton Hall used to live here but abandoned it, leaving it as a two storey ruin and a romantic backdrop for a group picture.
The final castle of the day was another ruin named Pendragon Castle to cash in on links with the King Arthur legend. There is no evidence that the castle existed before the Norman invasion and, given that the best preserved part of it is the toilet, it is not ready for an influx of tourists. It made a pleasant spot for lunch as visitors are permitted to sit but not climb on the walls. While we sat there a Typhoon fighter flew low overhead along the valley.
The return journey required us to climb the hill on the far side of the valley to find the path back to Nateby. The wet grass in some of the fields we passed through did a fine job of washing the front of our boots but left on the heels the little mud we had collected.
Christine struggled to keep up her trousers by hooking her thumbs through the belt loops but eventually had to ask if anyone had spare laces. She had been scanning the ground for baler twine but found none until she had her trousers laced up.
The good weather we had experienced since we left Ribblehead on Tuesday, let us down and we experienced some light showers shortly before we reached the cars.
To allow you to check the veracity of the above narrative, Ralph has produced a YouTube video to give you a flavour of the trip. Click here to see it.
Wednesday 24 May Rivington Walk Leader: Barrie Hacking Length of walk: 11 miles Driving Distance: 50 miles Number walking: 12
The walk started from Rivington Country Park where we enjoyed a proper car park and toilets and took us along the reservoir through packs of dogs. It was fortunate that only Bill was gripped by one of the slavering beasts as it leapt for his throat and missed. With the dogs behind us we explored a scale model of Liverpool Castle that Lord Leverhulme commissioned as a folly. When he died in 1925, everyone agreed that it was a folly and stopped any further work on it. Those of you who find it hard to believe that Liverpool used to have a castle, look at the monument to Queen Victoria in Derby Square. A plaque reveals that the castle used to stand there.
With the stroll along the reservoir out of the way we climbed past Rivington Hall and its accompanying barn which is used as a wedding venue. As with everything else in the area, it had been restored by Lord Leverhulme in the early 20th century.
A heavily-eroded path took us to the top of Rivington Pike where a large bricked up tower stands and we ate lunch. We were surprised to find lots of people at the summit; they might have intended to look out for Blackpool Tower as we did. We were all disappointed; we couldn’t even see the Winter Hill television mast 1.5 miles away until we had left the hill and the low cloud lifted.
After lunch we walked over moorland in the sunshine and followed the tiny river Yarrow down to Lead Mines Clough, where Stephen drummed up support for his Geology course by explaining the exciting features showing in the rock.
We then followed the shores of several reservoirs which took us back to the car park.