Tag Archives: Wainwright


Wainwright’s Way is a 123-mile long-distance route linking the place where he was born, a Victorian terraced house in Audley Range, Blackburn, with his final resting place, by Innominate Tarn on Haystacks in the Lake District.

The walk follows in his footsteps linking his youthful walks, the sights he sketched and wrote about in Lancashire and Westmorland, time in Kendal before entering the Lake District, land of his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

I have obtained a guidebook written by Nick Burton which as well as giving a route description goes into detailed aspects of Wainwright’s life. Nick’s first chapter is devoted to AW’s time in Blackburn and suggests a short tour of the sights that he would have been familiar with. I have already made a ‘pilgrimage’ to his Memorial on the hills above Blackburn and now I’ll explore the town centre.

Wainwright lived in Blackburn from 1907 until  1941. How different the town would have been when he went to school and from the age of 13 worked as a clerk at the Town Hall. Blackburn had been a boomtown based on the cotton industry which was slowly contracting, mills were still dominant and the pollution and noise must have been all invading. Rows and rows of basic housing accomodated the workforce of which many faced poverty in the slumps of the 20s and 30s. The town centre reflected its former glory with buildings of Victorian splendour and daily AW would walk to work at the Town Hall in the centre. So much has changed as Blackburn has been redeveloped but Burton tries to show you a glimpse of AW’s time. There’s not much left. The town seems to have suffered from the bulldozer more than others.

Nick Burton.

The bus station from where he departed for adventures further afield has been moved and the station forecourt ‘modernised’.

The Cathedral stands centre stage, the land around it has become a pleasing open space. There are tombs of past notaries such as the Fielden and Peel families. Queen Victoria’s statue occupies one corner while closer at hand is a modern statue.

Variety theatres have disappeared from hereabouts and the centre is dominated by a large shopping mall cum market. On Darwen Street is the old Post Office now a thriving Wetherspoons.

On a corner is the ornate old Lloyds Bank and then the remains of a Victorian Exchange Arcade. Northgate survives but with a poor selection of shops. Ahead is Gladstone’s statue pointing to King George’s Hall and courts.

Across the way is the impressive terracotta Technical School and behind is the shell of Blakey Moor Higher Elementary School where AW was briefly a pupil in 1919-20 before leaving for a job at the Town Hall.

The Italianate Town Hall is still standing and now connected to a multistorey extension overlooking the statue of W H Hornby a cotton baron who became Mayor in 1857.

Nearby are two other Victorian buildings from AW’s time. The scruffy Cotton Exchange, a cinema in the early 20th century,  and the former Library now a museum.

Georgian Richmond Terrace is mainly legal offices but was built for rich local gentlemen before they moved out to the countryside when the railways came.

James Street retains its cobbles if nothing else.

Alongside St. John’s Church is the earliest church in the town, started in 1789.  Recently run as an arts centre it was gutted by fire earlier this year and looks lost and forlorn. Somewhere in the grounds is a memorial stone to the Thwaites family, local brewers.

Speaking of which their town centre brewery is being demolished since they have moved away. The sight of dray horse waggons a memory. Past the bingo hall, Penny Street has become a large soulless car park next to the new bus station.

Nick Burton suggests a diversion up Old Eanam Road past the old Soho foundry to view a few remaining canalside buildings and wharves. Despite the coming of the railways, there would have still been commercial canal traffic in AW’s time.


In Nick Burton’s book, AW’s sketches from his many books are used to supplement the descriptions. I can find none of Blackburn.

Back to the station and time to escape to the country.







I was unaware of the existence of a Wainwright Memorial until a friend gave me a copy of a walk from Blackburn’s Witton Park to visit the said memorial.

Alfred Wainwright [1907 – 1991] is famous for his ‘Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells’ and much much more. He spent his early years in Blackburn, leaving school at the age of 13 to work as a clerk in the Town Hall until leaving in 1941 to a job in Kendal’s Treasury Office.

The Wainwright Society aims are to keep alive the fellwalking traditions promoted by Alfred Wainwright through his guidebooks and to keep faith with his vision of introducing a wider audience to fellwalking and caring for the hills. They were responsible for the erection of his Memorial on the outskirts of Blackburn. It is a bronze toposcope with a hollow centre where there is a stone relief carving of Wainwright. The memorial is on a plinth of gritstone set on the Yellow Hills of Pleasington. From here there is a panorama of the surrounding landscape with the plaque indicating near and far hills with a view to the distant Lakeland Fells. The memorial was unveiled on 13th of May 2013.

Today I went to investigate.

I parked on the large carpark of Witton Park which serves the parkland and a sports complex as well as Billinge Hill above the park. £1.50 for the day seemed reasonable. There was an eclectic mix of users;  ladies with babies and toddlers, tracksuited youngsters attending the arena, Army cadets, dogwalkers aplenty, some dodgy-looking hooded youths hanging about.

An effort has been made to get people exploring with lots of interpretation boards, maps, adventure parks and coloured trails. One of the trails explores the former grounds of Witton Hall, this was a large house built in the 1800s for the Feilden family, wealthy textile merchants. At its height, 16 servants were employed as well as 60 employees in the grounds, gardens and farm. Little remains today, it was demolished by Blackburn Corporation in 1952. Some of the outbuildings are still used, there is a large lily pond and an ice house.

Anyhow to get back to Wainwright my map showed a route into the park and then paths disappearing up into the woods. To be honest there were paths everywhere. A stiff climb in woods alongside fields soon left the town behind and the crowds. There was only one dog walker in front of me. When we stopped for pleasantries and I told him of my objective he exclaimed that the hill had “the best view inth world!” We parted and I became a little lost in the trees so we met up again at the upper edge of the forest. It had started raining hard so we both sheltered for a while exchanging walking experiences, it was then he mentioned in his broad Lancashire accent that he had “never bin abroad“. What was I to make of his viewpoint now?

We parted once again and I strolled over to an eminence on what is strangely known as The Yellow Hills. [I have since found out that they are named from the abundant gorse that blooms on their flanks.]  Here was the impressive Wainwright Memorial and indeed it was an excellent 360degree viewpoint.  Today’s visibility was limited so I had to imagine some of the distant hills indicated on the toposcope. Ewood Park however was prominent, Alfred had been a founder member of the Blackburn Rovers Supporters’ Association and a life long fan. This sculpture seems to be a fitting memorial to Wainwright’s time in Blackburn and his further walking exploits.

Retracing my steps I narrowly avoided one of the largest group of walkers I’ve seen, not my idea of a walk. My little plan had me following paths into the forest that is Billinge Hill to its summit from where trees obstructed any view. There was however an interesting plaque at the top.

Back on the circuit, I remembered in the past having climbed in a little quarry up here somewhere. After a little exploration, I think I found it, overgrown and strewn with litter from local youths up to no good. It’s in there somewhere…

Leaving the hill my path crossed an old access road to the hall’s grounds and I crossed a couple of fields with more open views once again. Then it was back into woods again dropping steeply to arrive at a cafe, it was closed.

This visit to Wainwright’s Memorial turned out to be a worthwhile rural walk in new surroundings within a stone’s throw of Blackburn’s busy streets.

It has also set the seeds for a possible journey up Wainwright’s Way from Blackburn to the Lakes.


Map from ‘VisitBlackburn’












A walk of two halves, coming with a health warning.

I’ve tagged this post ‘Lake District’ which is not correct but the motorway skirting the Lakes gives most people their only view of The Howgills and that’s as far as it goes for the majority. I would imagine for every thousand walkers setting foot in the Lakes there will be barely one in The Howgills. That view from the motorway shows extensive rounded hills with deeply divided valleys, long fingery ridges radiating from the central mass. The Lune Valley and Mainline Railway share that Western Boundary with the motorway, there is one particularly conspicuous, twisting deep valley leading intriguingly into hidden depths – this is the Carlin Gill.  Photo above.

I arrange a walk with Sir Hugh and suggest The Howgills for somewhere different, he says he has always wanted to explore Carlin Gill. The die is cast.

I have vague memories of walking up the gill to take a look at Black Force and The Spout, two hidden waterfalls. Out comes Wainwright’s ‘Walks on the Howgill Fells’ for guidance,  a few chapters cover parts of our intended route.

Carlin Gill – “The walk cannot be done if the beck is in flood. A half-mile section is a battle against nature in the raw and ends in a desperate scramble. Nonagenarians should think twice before attempting it.”

Part one.

Having parked up by the Gill we are not certain whether ‘the beck is in flood‘ or not, there seems a lot of water in it after recent heavy rain. We set off debating which side we should be on, the best path often on the other bank and sufficient water to deter wading. Sheep trods are followed with slippery rock encountered on steep obstructions. But progress is made, we marvel at the sunny weather, our solitude and surroundings.

The start of Carlin Gill.

The way ahead.

Easy going…

Deeper into the valley we are forced alongside the beck where care is needed to avoid a slip. Soon [it was over an hour] we are alongside the impressive Black Force, a waterfall tumbling down a gully opposite.


Getting awkward.

Don’t slip now.

Approaching Black Force.





Black Force.

We do not like the look of the scramble up it which is one of our escape routes! So we persist up the gill a few more hundred yards until stood under The Spout, the 30ft waterfall blocking our exit. An impressive place to be. I’m pleased we penetrated so far and would be happy to return the way we came but there are primitive stirrings from Sir Hugh to climb out ‘now we are here’.


In the beck.

Let’s look round the corner.




The Spout.

Wainwright says to climb a crack in the rib to easier ground above the fall, a steep scramble. Neither of us likes the look of the slippery crack or the steep ground above it. The other side of the gill looks as steep. Curiously we don’t think of retreat but convince ourselves of a better way just to the left of Wainwright’s option, some steep grassy rakes avoiding the loose rock. It is only when 15ft up with Sir Hugh clinging to grassy handholds and feet skidding on wet moss that I have a change of heart – “Why don’t we go down?”    “I can’t”  came the reply.


Grassy rakes.

Getting steeper.

“I can’t go back.”

Fast forward and I’ve coaxed Sir Hugh back to relative safety and we progress to better handholds – heather rather than moss. The angle eases and we have time to sit and have a team talk about further progress.  Soon we are traversing on sheep tracks above an ever-increasing drop and then it is all over as we arrive at Blakethwaite Bottom a boggy basin.

As exposed as it looks.

Easier ground.

Part Two.

Having defied death all was plain sailing from now on except that we were only halfway up onto the tops. A vague track led up to a vague col where we turned right and were able to stroll alongside each other, discussing the day so far, onto Docker Knott. The views were staggering particularly to the north. Undulations led to Wind Scarth where we had to be careful to keep right avoiding a well-trodden track to The Calf. There are no walls, fences and few cairns up here to help navigation but that is one of the attractions of these open fellsides. An upwards path heads towards a visible cairn on Fell Head at  623m the highest point on the Western Howgills. A couple of fell walkers passed us on the ridge without any conversation, the only people we saw all day. At the cairn, we sat and had some lunch and took in the 360-degree views. Everywhere was clear Morecambe Bay, The Lakeland Fells, distant Galloway, Cross Fell and the Northern Pennines, the Three Peaks, Bowland Hills and possibly far away Snowdonia. Sir Hugh was having a great time with his long zoom lens.

Upwards on Docker Fell.

Looking north.

The Calf.

Heading for Fell Head.

Fell Head looking south to Morecambe Bay.

West towards the Lakes.

Yorkshire Three Peaks.

Careful compass work made sure we were on our way towards the lesser top of Linghaw and onwards over Back Balk with the motorway in the background to arrive back directly to the car parked ironically on Gibbet Hill, we had escaped the gallows on this memorable day’s walk.

Heading down.

The Lune Valley and our car insight.

Well done Sir Hugh, mission accomplished – it will be less steep in The Broads next week!  Check out his post for further photos.

I am now keen to return to the Howgills and explore further but perhaps not in Carlin Gill.

A footnote.

I didn’t mention that a tree at the base of the spout was festooned with Tibetan Prayer flags and strangely a climbing helmet. There were also some ashes scattered on the rocks. Our imaginations ran wild  – was this someone’s favourite retreat or was somebody fatally injured on these rocks?

I’ve just ‘googled’ Carlin Gill Accident without a lot of success except for one accident that happened to Sir Hugh, who had posted that he slipped heavily on a patch of ice near the bridge at the start of the Gill whilst on a simple walk along the lane in winter January 2017. https://conradwalks.blogspot.com/2017/01/tebat-sedbergh-road.html








LECK – a day out with Tilley.

Things don’t always work out as planned, today’s walk was one of those.

In the past I have often explored Leck Beck from the village up to Ease Gill and remember the dramatic scenery particularly in Ease Gill Kirk. We would often finish the day with some simple cave exploration on the fell, Short Drop and Lost Johns Caves stand out in my memory. So when the Pieman and his little brother Will [all is relative] suggested a revisit I was keen to join them. Out came Wainwright’s Limestone book with the relative chapter, maybe we could also throw in an ascent of Gragareth.

The day started well as I parked up next to the church and donated them a pound , cheaper than those car parks in the Lakes. We met up promptly but there was an unexpected addition to the team – Tilley the spaniel, Will’s beloved dog. This didn’t seem a problem as she was on a lead and appeared docile enough. Off we went catching up on events in our separate lives and reveling in the lovely weather. Tilley trotted alongside. Only when we into more open country did I realise that Tilley could run Will a merry dance, despite being on one of those retractable leads when she decided to explore off route Will seemed to have to run after her.  Hilarious.

The valley was longer and more beautiful than we remembered. Certainly longer for Will dragged aside by Tilley. By the time we reached the interesting Ease Gill Kirk my plan to drop into it to explore further didn’t resonate with the brothers plus dog and they left me to it. Feeling rather abandoned my visit was only cursory and I didn’t see what I wanted. The whole place seemed overgrown and unreconisable, I’ll have to return without any pressure.

Reunited for lunch we discussed the way on, the dog team won and we climbed up the hillside, now resplendent in purple heather, towards the road near Leck Fell House. This must be one of the loneliest places in Lancashire, yes we are still in an outpost of Lancashire despite the ‘dales’ feel to the area. I didn’t have the heart to inform the other two they were not in their beloved Yorkshire, they might have panicked. Potholes were all now fenced off and I didn’t have the time to find my favourite, Short Drop Cave. I used to enjoy dropping into it, it was only a short drop once you knew it, and going down the water worn passage was easy for some distance.  Apparently the dog was tired so our ascent of Gragareth was dismissed. At least we made a cursory exploration of the area of Lost Johns Cave, a stream entrance was obvious but today there was too much water  and too little enthusiasm for further probing.

Back on the road it was a delightful walk back down to Leck with Tilley showing no further signs of fatigue lead the way. The scenery hereabouts triumphed over my frustrations as we arrived back early at the car.

I would like to make it clear I have no malice towards the lovely Tilley, as they say it’s not the dog’s fault  it’s the owner’s.

A map of where we did and didn’t go…

WHITBARROW SCAR – a day out with Poppy.

My diary records – 22 October 1988. Circuit of Whitbarrow, Chris and Matthew. Glorious day, sunny and warm. 6.5 miles. The weekend before I had been climbing on Castle Rock, Thirlmere, and the next I was off to Morocco, trecking in the Jebel Sahro. Those were the days.

Whitbarrow is a wooded limestone ridge towering above the Kent Estuary prominently seen from across the water on the road to Arnside and its crags driven under on the Barrow road. Wainwright gives it a chapter in his Outlying Fells book. I hadn’t been back since that day so I was pleased when Sir Hugh suggested it for today’s walk. I managed to persuade the Rockman and his dog to come along saying it would be a short trip as Sir Hugh is recovering from a broken elbow and is only just using his walking poles. The morning was dreadful with floods developing from the torrential downpour but by the time we met up at Mill Side there was a glimpse of something better. The keenest member of the party was Poppy the Airdale Terrier.

What followed was a switchback route through woods, steep slippery slopes, glorious open ridge walking and first class limestone scenery. The Rockman and I just followed the intrepid Sir Hugh who was obviously rejoicing in his new found freedom, at times we all had to be careful not to suffer any further injury. Some paths I think were known only to him. Poppy jogged along contentedly and took all the considerable obstacles in her stride, though she seemed happiest when we stopped for lunch at the highest point, Lords Seat,

We completed a figure of eight course which included a close encounter with the base of Chapel Head Scar, a bastion of limestone hosting difficult sports climbs. I had never climbed here and I never will when I realised the grades. However above the crag, reached by a precipitous path, is a beautiful meadow which seemed perfect for a summer bivi looking out to the west over the Kent Estuary. There are paths everywhere and the whole area is worthy of further exploration, I particularly would like to walk closer under the southern White Scar cliffs which we seemed to miss by being in the woods, hereabouts our legs and conversation were just beginning to drag for the last half mile.


Wainwright’s Outlying Fells – The Final Chapter.

The Bannisdale Horseshoe.

Lonely tramping.

By pure serendipity Sir Hugh and I had left this circuit to finish off our Winter tramps around these fells, it was AW’s last chapter also…  “take a companion who is agile enough to run for help… God be with you.”

With careful planning we parked up the hidden Bannisdale valley at Dryhowe Bridge reducing the day’s mileage. But six hours later we had tramped across eight and a half miles of grass with 3000ft of ascent. The ridge was broad and tussocky but the ground is thankfully drying out. A few cairns marked the indistinct tops and our view most of the day was northwards to the higher Kentmere fells. On the return leg a trig. point appeared on White Howe and from here were views over Kendal to the coast at Arnside, I think I could spot Sir Hugh’s house. These are remote fells and will not see many walkers. At last the temperature has improved and we enjoyed sunshine all day, you wouldn’t want to be here on a rainy or misty one.



Longsleddale and the distant Kentmere skyline

Longsleddale and the distant Kentmere skyline.

"agile enough"

“agile enough to run for help”

South from White Howe.

South from White Howe.

A few words about Sir Hugh – a good friend of several years initially climbing together, a fanatical long distance walker, dependable and enthusiastic to the end,  despite his dodgy knees I just manage to keep up with him. The Outlying Fells have been  a worthwhile project and given us good times out together, my appreciation of the area has been definitely broadened. May I have a rest now?


The completed Wainwright Outlying Fells.

The completed Wainwright Outlying Fells.



Today’s fells really need to be experienced in person, preferably in the gorgeous weather we were blessed with. Photographs hardly do justice to the feeling of the wide open spaces which we even compared to the skies over the Broads. There are endless miles of undulating hills sitting on the very edge of the Lakes.  AW writes – “a worthwhile expedition on a clear day, not so much for the views, which are dreary and uninspiring, as for the exhilaration of new territory, solace of solitude and beneficial exercise”    Exactly.

Sir Hugh’s choice of parking proved to be fortuitous as other approach roads seemed blighted by works. A simple climb over our first Outlier – Langhowe Pike – with its views down Swindale, where we picked up the corpse road which climbed its way from Mardale into this valley and then on to the church in Shap and consecrated burial ground. I was on another corpse road last week which came from Wasdale, past Burnmoor Tarn to Eskdale.

NW Water are undertaking a lot of work in the Swindale catchment area and things are a bit of a mess still. The last time  I was here to climb on Gouther Crag the footbridge was being lifted away in front of our eyes,   [ https://bowlandclimber.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/getting-better-gouther-crag-climbing/ ]   its replacement is completely out of place. Thankfully higher up the original stepping stones are still there. Chatting to a local man it seems that not everyone is happy with the Swindale works, the two higher farms have been bought by the waterboard and are now unoccupied, there has been a lot of fencing erected on open ground and much tree planting on the fells. I would have thought that the latter is good for the environment and should visually be of benefit in a few years.

Swindale from Langhowe Pike.

Swindale from Langhowe Pike.

Anyhow on with the walk up beautiful Swindale. A cyclist was masochistically pushing a bike up the corpse road as it climbed to Mardale. We entered a world of drumlins at the head of the valley before a brutal 1000ft climb up to Nabs Moor and onto Howes.  My altimeter ran out of juice at this point so I couldn’t confirm the days total, I suspect about 3000ft. From up here we had views down to Mosedale and its MBA cottage. A lazy lunch was taken by a playful stream, the sunshine delaying our departure.

Drumlins at the head of Swindale.

Drumlins at the head of Swindale.



Looking back to Howes.

Looking back to Howes.


The next group of hills High Wether Howe, Fewling Stones, Seat Robert and Great Ladstones proved a tiring round with many boggy depressions but the blue skies made up for it and we chugged along but were nonetheless pleased to see the car in the late afternoon.

Onwards from Higher Wether Howe.

Onwards from Higher Wether Howe.

Contemplating past glories from Seat Robert.

Contemplating past glories from Seat Robert.


'The Road goes ever on and on' Lord of the Rings.

‘The Road goes ever on and on’   Tolkien  Lord of the Rings.