Most of this afternoon there were voices in the air telling me to ‘gobackgoback‘. I was on the doorstep of the Duke of Westminster’s (check him and his family out on Hugh Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster – Wikipedia) back garden, his vast acreage of grouse shooting moorland. I’m not sure that I had been this particular way. When I started exploring this area the CRoW act of 2000 hadn’t been passed and so this piece of land would have been no go, not that I always took any notice of those restrictions.
I get to muse on grouse shooting. If the red grouse is a native bird to the UK then surely it should be protected, along with other birds, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. In view of this how do the aristocracy and landed gentry get away with the annual massacre for ‘sport’ on their estates? The two don’t seem to go hand in hand. But life is never fair, certainly not if you are a grouse. I’m anti shooting and hunting, so I declare my bias, but somewhere I found this, worth considering…
No doubt the Duke gets financial recompense for some of his land being ‘open access’. The worst aspect of this on these moors is the ‘Unregulated tracks and roads’. A minor road has been created, without the usual planning restraints, right through the centre of what should be a wild area, we are short of those. See my picture later in the post.
Anyhow, I’ve had my grouse about shooting, so back to my walk. Walk 3 of Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone guide to walks in Lancashire, Clougha Pike and Grit Fell. The Rigg Lane car park has a notice that it is locked in the evenings, though no time is stated. That makes me nervous from the start. And my start is late, delayed till midday after a morning of frequent heavy showers.
As I said I’ve never knowingly used this approach to Clougha Pike, although I’ve been up there many times. It is a pleasant way through a wooded glade with a tumbling stream as an accompaniment. I struggle to understand the geology, all landslips and jumbles of gritstone boulders. Steadily upwards, actually quite steeply in parts through the gritstone outcrops. Once onto the open fell the way is well trodden, rough in places, most footsteps are heading to the Pike.
The guide mentions a right-hand ladder stile, a wooden gate and a kissing gate on the way and these are crucial to finding the correct way.
By now you are on the summit ridge and there is an easier walk up gritstone slabs to the Trig point and stone shelters of Clougha Pike, 413 m. Previous visits have given me wonderful views over Lancaster and Morecambe Bay. Today all was a little hazy. It was even more hazy ahead on the way along the ridge to Grit Fell, 467 m, with its modest cairn. ‘Gobackgoback’.
That incongruous estate road is reached and followed back on itself. A minor diversion to an old quarry used for roofing stones, the grit here splits in the best way for flat roofing shingles. But there is something else here Andy Goldsworthy’s three stone pods. I’m alone, so the usual photo opportunity goes missing.
Back on that road for a short stretch to a rocky outcrop on the right, not left as in the guide, where a narrow path heads downhill through the heather due north. Its origins become plain soon as old abandoned grouse butts are passed. The modern shooter has posh new butts closer to the road, so they don’t have to walk too far. One of the butts makes a good base for some lunch, it is nearly 3pm. All around is murky. ‘gobackgoback‘ is the constant cry as grouse take to the wing, far too rapidly for me to shoot – with my camera.
The path deteriorates in boggy ground but then suddenly brings you to the edge of the deep and delightful Littledale with the infant Conder River dropping on the left. I possibly went wrong here and managed to climb back up onto the moor on an inviting green track instead of following the valley base. No matter they both meet up on the road, particularly ugly and out of place here, which drops into Otter Geer Clough.
It’s along here I have my close encounter with a Red Grouse, probably protecting its breeding territory.
I’m soon at the bridge carrying the Thirlmere Aqueduct which passes within half a mile of my house on its way to Heaton Park in Manchester. The water is gravity fed, an outstanding feat of Victorian engineering, and takes just over a day from source to destination. There is a varied long distance walk that follows close to its course. Whilst here I can’t resist a quick look into the nearby quarry where I helped my friend Pete develop some climbing routes maybe 30 years or so ago.
Being close to the car park there are more people about, and I drop into conversation with an elderly gent. Delightfully old-fashioned and attired in cobbled together clothes with several safety pins holding it all together. We chat about this and that, him advocating the benefits of regular exercise and making the effort to get out whatever the weather. He leaves me and sets off to try and discover a way up the rocky fell above us. a true character.
It’s a pleasant stroll back through the gorse reaching the car just as darkness descends, thankfully the gate is still open.
I’ve done variations of this walk before here and there, but I think this one from the Cicerone book gives the best route. Top class scenery and all round interest. Last words from the grouse, ‘gobackgoback‘.