Thursday, 12 February 2015

A journey through Cumbria and Lancashire (past and present)

Rather than take the predictable A590 route home from coastal Cumbria today, I took my preferred route over Hardnott and Wrynose pass, into Little Langdale, passing through Ambleside and then onto Windermere. It's a remote and tortuous route, which my satnav did not want to take. No matter how many times I pressed "Calculate alternative route" it refused to offer me the most direct route to Ambleside, preferring instead to try to add 10 miles or more to my journey by going all around the houses to get to my destination.  It didn't seem to dawn on the satnav that the only reason I was putting Ambleside in as a destination was because I wanted to go over the two passes. In the end I tricked it by telling it to take me to the village of Boot and then when I got there, changing my destination to Ambleside. Then it had no choice.....

Hardknott pass is not for the faint hearted, a single track road with very few passing places and hairpin bends on steep inclines, the car rarely attaining 2nd gear. On the way up you pass the ruins of a Roman fort, and each time I do so I wonder at the fortitude of the Roman soldiers who were stationed here 2000 years ago. Eventually though I was over Hardknott pass and dropped into the Duddon valley below, only to face the next challenge, Wrynose pass.

I knew from past experience that Wrynose pass is not quite so imposing as Hardknott pass, but it's still deserving of respect. A sign at the start of the pass warned me that the road was closed due to drifting snow and ice, but I guessed that this sign had not been changed since the recent thaw set in and this was confirmed by the sight of another car going over the pass. I pressed on.

At the top of Wrynose pass, just below Pike O'Blisco you come the Three Shires Stone, the old meeting point of the counties of Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire. The first two are now only memories, and only the latter remains as a county though much reduced in size and these days falling well short of the Three Shires Stone. A good 20 miles short in fact!

Ah, those were the days, when Lancashire extended to the summit of Wrynose pass and the highest point in the county was the enigmatic Coniston Old Man. These days the highest point in Lancashire is the dourly named Green Hill which is actually part of the Yorkshire Dales. How the mighty have fallen, this  can't be right surely??

One of my favourite viewpoints on this journey is this one looking over Little Langdale, back towards Wrynose pass.

After leaving Little Langdale it was pretty much plain sailing until I arrived on the Fylde about an hour and a half later. I spent the rest of the day walking around arable fields seeing not a lot to be honest, except for one area which had a flock of whooper swans and perhaps even more surprisingly, at least 50 black-tailed godwits in a flooded field.

Not a great photo, but these are black-tailed godwits.

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