Tuesday, 28 February 2017


Want a cosy woodland shelter?  Here is a recreation of a Bark Peelers Hut at Hay Bridge Nature Reserve which looks as though nature is trying to colonise it.  In past times these would have been the summer residence of a bark peeler who would remove bark from oak trees before they were coppiced to supply local tanneries.  They would also make other woodland products to sell such as brooms, stakes, clothes pegs and baskets. We gathered around to admire the construction but some of those present disputed it was a bark peelers hut and suggested a charcoal burners hut (both occupations having used the Lakeland forests for centuries).
To give you some idea of  of the scale of the hut here is Bob bobbing down to enter.  Bark Peelers Huts had low circular walls and a central heath with a flue. Obviously the degradable material of the poles and sides of the original huts have long gone but the remains of the walls and hearths still can be found in the woods of Cumbria.  Charcoal burners huts on the other hand although the same shape were more temporary structures so their footprint can be harder to find.
Taking a higher view of the hut you can see that this is not the only piece of past woodland industries in this little corner of the Rusland valley for there is also a Potash Kiln.  These were usually built into hillsides and I think this one has been rebuilt by Hay Bridge Nature Reserve as part of their educational remit. Here is a front view...
Wood or more often green bracken would have been burnt in this to make potash for fertilisers but could also be mixed with burnt lime and tallow and boiled to make soft liquid soaps called lyes.  The other use was a combination of potash and alum which can fix the dye in the process of turning wool into dyed bolts of cloth.  About 15 miles east of here is the town that originally produced the colour Kendal Green, famous for being the colour that Robin Hood wore.  I have read that the last potash to come out of a Potash Kiln in Lakeland was about 1840.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at H here

Friday, 24 February 2017

History Walk in the Lickle Valley

The Duddon Valley Local History Group walk to visit the abundant settlement sites in the secluded Lickle Valley, South West Cumbria.

Weather: Rain, drizzle and mist.
Distance: 4.5 Miles 
Start: The Hawk Car Park (SD 239 919)

We all set off with full waterproofs out of the car park and up the road to turn off  right onto the fell-side where extensive tree felling has taken place and there was a wire fence at the access point where what had been the step stile had been disposed of by being thrown on the floor (an eagle eyed member spotted part of its remains in the undergrowth). Not deterred, a wire balancing act ensued before we headed up the hill to our objective - The Hawk - an Iron Age or Romano-British settlement.

The Hawk settlement consists of the remains of five round houses in a natural hollow with rocky outcrops, high up but secluded and is indeed perched  like a hawk. The rain came down so unfortunately precluded use of my camera but happily a member of  The Megalithic Portal visited in 2014  so there is  full description with photographs. I believe there have been several archaeological digs at this site and it is certainly one that  inspires the imagination.

We fought our way down through the muddle and disorder of branches, the aftermath of tree felling, and eventually met the forestry road and started the long walk upwards with the River Lickle in the distance below us. Reaching the scenic Natty Bridge over Yewry Syke ravine we crossed to the open fell . There are interesting lone standing stones or way-marks at this point on the hillside.

We continued to Stephenson Ground, Scale and stopped at the boat shaped remains of the double walled Viking longhouse in a sheltered position
A dreich day at the Longhouse
where at last my camera was unfurled as it was only drizzling. Pottery and charcoal have been found here dated to 12th-14th Century although there is evidence the site could be Bronze Age (c2000-800BC).  I presume the place name Scale is from the Old Norse skdli, a hut or shelter.
Duddon History Group at the Burial Cairn
We gathered around the burial cairn below the longhouse where our leader Mervyn and member Stephe discussed the archaeological topography. If it hadn't been deep misty haze there would have been a glorious view down the valley at this point.

Continuing down and reaching Stephenson Ground farm there is a beautifully preserved
Potash Kiln
potash kiln where in the past green bracken (high in potassium) would have been burnt for use as potash fertiliser in other words Pot- Ash.  It could also be used in the making of soaps (lyes) and dyes.
On the Edge
In the present day it is providing a wonderful habitat for growing moss.

The etymology of the name Stephenson Ground refers to the fact that this area was granted as wasteland to the Stephenson family by Furness Abbey in 1509, a farmhouse was built soon after.  The present building is probably 18th Century.
There are extensive barns from varying periods of time around it
and some nice examples of
the stone bars of water yeats over what is a trickle of the River Lickle.  Our walk almost over we turned down the road to head back to the car park passing
Water Yeat Bridge
over Water Yeat Packhorse Bridge where this curious bell shaped object was. One of our party explained it was to prevent carriage wheels from knocking into and damaging the bridge parapet and is the only one he has seen still in place.

Thanks to Mervyn for taking us all on a fascinating history walk.  Sorry for the dubious quality of the photographs a combination of poor conditions and a technical blunder but hope these give some impression of a fascinating place full of the echoes of history.

This was a typical wet February day in the Lake District with the mist hanging in the air and dampening  the sound, rivulets tumbling down rocks and the moss luxuriantly green softly glowing like lanterns in the grey of the day.  The shine of wet tree trunks greeted us in the valley with water droplets clinging to the branches and a profusion of catkins promising the spring to come. 

For more a more informed history of the area visit the Duddon Valley Local History Group site.    

Tuesday, 21 February 2017


The engine steamed and the whistle blew as Tornedo thundered down the track through Garsdale Station. As you can see I clicked too soon and forgot I was in 'sports' mode so such have kept my finger down to get multiple images, doh,
and there it was - gone.  Ah the perils of photography.  Tornado is limited to 75 mph on main line running but would be able to go a lot faster, even so it was very impressive.  It is modern steam locomotive completed in 2008 (based on a Peppercorn engine with modifications) and for the first time was running a scheduled public timetable from Appleby to Skipton prior to the re-opening of the whole track from Settle to Carlisle on 31st March which will be inaugurated by the iconic Flying Scotsman.  The scenic line has been closed for over a year after the winter storms created a landslip of 500,000 tonnes of earth at Eden Brows and it continued to move.  The engineering solution can be seen here.
The station at Garsdale Head has been described as being the "wildest on the line" being high up on the fells and although the day was beautifully sunny the wind was icy, I was well wrapped up but as you can see the signalman is obviously made of sterner stuff, one could almost say made of 'True Grit', in his short sleeved shirt.
No-one else was taking that option.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at G here 


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Fishing Tackle

Its all quiet on the quayside, the lobster pots or creels at rest, the floats not floating
A nest of rope like a mound of spaghetti.  Look down  -

BW106 Anne Marie Fishing Boat
and more fishing tackle on deck but its not going anywhere at low tide.
BW7 Talisker
No matter how many ropes and pulleys.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at F here 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


The sands of Morecambe Bay came into view as on Saturday I gained modest height on Hampsfell by the lone exposed tree and if on cue the sky darkened
with just some shafts of light tracing the the winding tidal gullies. The sharp wind blew and then the hail shower started so I tucked my camera away and continued on thankful that I was well wrapped up against the elements.

The hardy snowdrops seem enured to the elements and have started to flower like a signpost

to more gentle seasons to come.
A warm summer's day on the footpath that links the villages of Foxfield and Broughton which at this point crosses the Eccle Rigg's nine hole golf course but something had changed nearby when I walked this way at the end of 2016 for the small indistinct pond that lies at the bottom
had been cleaned out and grown a bit bigger and deeper.  The notice asks everyone to stay away from the now exposed edges until it settles and regrows.   I think they are trying to improve the drainage but in the meantime
I look forward to some reflection opportunities when I might improve on this photograph.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at E here