Shoreline below Humphrey Head

The shoreline of Morecambe Bay, below Humphrey Head

Date completed: 17th December 2016.

Weather conditions: Mist filled the bowl of Morecambe Bay this morning, but it was forecast to clear. Despite some promise of this early on, however,  it never did, which was a bit disappointing. Conditions were decent enough for walking otherwise, but the persistent mist meant there were no distant views.

Summits bagged: Hampsfell (727 feet above sea level, number 83 of my second round), Humphrey Head (127’, no. 84). Both previously done on walk 72, exactly fifty walks ago, in July 2013.


Deer, near Wraysholme crossing: an unexpected nature spot today

Start and end points: Started at Grange-over-Sands railway station. Finished at Cark & Cartmel station.

Both these stations (separated by Kents Bank) are on the Cumbrian Coast line between Lancaster and Barrow. Grange is served by frequent trains, but not all stop at Cark & Cartmel, so check the timetable. Giving you my exact schedule today would be bit misleading as it was altered by a late train and also included a hiatus over lunch (see below), but basically I did the walk in five hours station-to-station.

Distance walked: Very much a guess today but let’s say 8.5 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 1050 feet approximately.

Road and drainage ditch

‘Unfellwalking’… This was the flattest, lowest-altitude of all my Wainwright walks

Pub at end: In fact I patronised two pubs today. First, the Pheasant Inn at Allithwaite. I arrived at noon, just as it was opening, so had a pint, and you could perhaps plan to have lunch here, it seems OK.

Then, at the end of the walk, the Hope and Anchor in Flookburgh. The highly explicit gangsta rap on the stereo would not be to everyone’s taste, and there was only one real ale though it was palatable enough: barman friendly, though. Leave five minutes to walk from here to Cark and Cartmel rail station.

Route: A greater contrast with my last walk, up Bowfell, is hard to imagine.  Of all the 122 walks I have now done on this project, this one has the lowest average altitude above sea level, and most of it takes place outside the National Park. It is almost suburban in parts, and over half of it requires walking on tarmac. It’s worth doing though — the views of Morecambe Bay will be very good (even if I didn’t see them) and as Wainwright says in the Humphrey Head chapter, it’s good to have a change of scene now and again.

Ornamental Gardens

The gardens at Grange station, with teal

From Grange station, go out past the bus stop and turn left at the mini-roundabout, past the ‘Ornamental Garden’ on your left (pictured). At the end of the row of shops, turn right and climb up the steep path, with the handrail, to the flats at the top, and head up the path into the woods.

Stick with it and this will eventually bring you out onto Hampsfell Road, which one can assume will head in the right direction, and so it does, although don’t take the signposted footpath on the left at one point (near the hotel); instead stick on the lane, go past the limekiln and keep heading up to a well-signposted junction, at which point leave the road to head onto the open ground of Hampsfell.

The path was not always clear in this section and as it was misty, I went more on instinct than anything else here, but just keeping heading uphill got me to the Hospice in the end: I crossed only one wall.

Ascent of Hampsfell

On the ascent of Hampsfell, and the mist nearly… so nearly… clearing.

The Hospice is a good spot for the first break, you can sit inside it (and have a fire, if you happened to have brought any coal). Climb to the roof if you wish, but take care on the stairs coming down, particularly if the stones are slippery.

Leave the summit of Hampsfell in a southerly direction, generally at right-angles (to the left) of the way you approached it. The path is fairly well-defined as it descends, first past a reservoir, then to the road near Grange Fell golf club. Once you come out onto the lane, turn right down it for a short stretch, then right again on the main road — this is the busiest road you have to walk on today that lacks a pavement, so be wary of the suburbanites bombing past in their 4x4s as you go past the golf club to the four-way junction, at which point take the marvellously-named Wart Barrow Lane, which is much quieter and leads to Allithwaite.

Newton Fell South from Hampsfell

Newton Fell South — I think — poking its head above the clouds

Turn left once you reach the village and head down the main street. Where there is a junction, both sides of which are signposted as ‘no footway’, bear right. This takes you past the Pheasant Inn, where stop for lunch and/or a pint if you like. It opens at noon.

At this point I tried following the right of way marked on the OS map as connecting Allithwaite and Humphrey Head. My advice to you is not to do this. Leaving the pub, things were OK down the lane past the ‘stud farm’ of Blenket Wood and a footpath sign then led me right into the fields (see picture, and rant, below): but shortly after this there was a vile quagmire just past a gate, and although I negotiated this successfully enough, and was led on over a stile, after this point the path deteriorated completely into a swamp. Rather than battling on any more I just retraced my steps, losing 20-25 minutes of time.

Tidewatcher at Humphrey Head

Humphrey Head shoreline. This guy told me that he had been ‘checking the time the tide came in’ — as if it were in some doubt…

So don’t follow me here — let’s go back to where we were having a nice pint at the Pheasant Inn. Instead, from the pub, carry on down the road just a little way then look for a footpath sign pointing left, which leads past cottages and through a gate into a field: still a bit muddy, but nowhere near as bad as the other one, keep the beck on your right and you will come out onto another lane. Turn left, go across the level crossing, left again and you will arrive at Humphrey Head soon after. (It was from this lane that I saw the deer in the field, pictured near the top of the page.)

Last time I went up Humphrey Head via the lane leading to the Outdoor Centre, and this is the easiest way up, but for variety I carried on along the road until it ends at the shoreline. I tried seeing if I could get all the way along the shore to Humphrey Head point, but as I was here at high tide this was impassable. It might be OK to do it at lower tides though I would guess there is a risk of soft sand and mud so cannot advise further (I note that no such route is mapped on Wainwright’s page 68). Still, it was worth an excursion along the shoreline, and under the limestone cliffs of the Head: this is not a scene you will encounter elsewhere in Lakeland, and has a great beauty to it, even on a misty day, as when I visited.

Humphrey Head Point

Humphrey Head Point, high tide (cf. the picture on p. 67 of volume 8)

Humphrey Head can be climbed direct from the car park at the end of the lane but bear in mind this is a steep (though obviously short) scramble, with a couple of sections that are awkward, particularly when the rocks are slippery. Don’t rush it — you don’t want to go out in an accident on the lowest Wainwright of all.  At the top of the scramble, head right, shortly after there is a gate which leads you straight to the trig point on the summit. It is then worth descending down to Humphrey Head Point before leaving. On the day I was there, a screaming mass of seagulls was out in the bay feasting on the bounty brought in by the tide — an amazing sight that due to the mist I could not capture on camera. This is a beautiful spot, well worth dallying in.

As I said earlier, at high tide options for going round the shoreline were limited so from the Point I just went back up over the summit (remember, even climbing Humphrey Head twice in an hour is hardly going to challenge the even vaguely healthy), and along the ridge back to the outdoor centre.


Hammock-style cobweb

From here, retrace steps to the junction near the level crossing but this time, bear left, carrying on along this lane until it meets a busier road, where turn right and use the pavement to head into Flookburgh. When you come into the main square, the pub is on the right, Cark and Cartmel station is a few minutes up the road straight ahead.

In-the-mist commentary: I finished work on Friday for ten days and did hope to get a walk in at some point. The forecast was good for today, but though there were some clear patches on the train up from Preston, on disembarking at Grange station at about 10am this morning things were grey and misty. No matter, I thought — I trusted the forecast that said it would clear — and as I ascended Hampsfell, reaching about 600’, things looked good in that respect. Looking north there were promising views of fells poking themselves above the layer of mist below.

Roof of Hospice

On the roof of the Hospice, at the summit of Hampsfell

Alas — that was all we got of that, really. The photographer on top of the Hospice was clearly disappointed as the mist began to inch back up the hill, and after leaving there, I was in the mist the rest of the way round. But that was OK. It wasn’t unpleasant to walk in, and it did give the Humphrey Head region a wintry melancholy feel. And I restate that one point of doing this second round is to experience variety — and last time I did these two fells was on an extremely hot summer’s day in July 2013 (walk 72). So job done in that regard, then.

One thing I love about the Lake District — and the whole of the UK landscape come to think of it — is its amazing diversity. How wholly different was this walk from my last one, Langdale and Bowfell on that beautiful day three weeks ago (walk 121).

False footpath sign

The ‘footpath’ sign at Blenket Wood farm. You lie!

Still beautiful though, at least, the fells were — Hampsfell’s limestone pavement and Hospice (with its amusing signs inside), Humphrey Head with its infinite-seeming seascapes and wildlife: bagging three deer with the camera today was highly unexpected.  Maybe one could do without the suburban realm of Allithwaite in-between the two but at least that can provide a pub (unlike Lindale: see walk 119) and all-in-all I wasn’t feeling like a major mountain hike today anyway.

The only downer was the revolting and outrageous state of the ‘public footpath’ south of Allithwaite, past the farm of Blenket Wood, the owners of which presumably have some kind of role to play in maintaining the throughway. Clearly they don’t give a toss though. The first quagmire past the gate was bad enough but after that the whole thing became an impassable swamp. Insult was added to injury here by the highly prominent ‘Footpath!’ sign (pictured) which led me into this mire, so it’s not like I accidentally went the wrong way.

Sunset over Morecambe Bay

The sun sets on the day, and maybe 2016 in walking terms…. Morecambe Bay, from the train home near Silverdale

But of course there is no capital to be made from this. Not enough people come this way to have complaints make much difference to the owners and managers of this land. ‘Rights’ of way aren’t just legal fictions, they should be able to be exercised, and not blocked by neglect and/or bad land management. But try asserting any ‘rights’ to the unelected dictatorship currently in charge of us — this is not a discourse which they find meaningful. I know we are in a very minor territory here but it’s all the same thing in the end.

Moving on. I’m not guaranteeing that this will be the last walk of 2016, as good weather on 28th – 30th December may still tempt me out, but even if I don’t do another one, this year has seen me do 18 Wainwright walks (with walk 117 being a two-dayer) and bag 64 summits, and there have been some spectacular days among them — it’s been a good walking year by any definition. Mind you, even at this rate it will still be 2020, perhaps 2021, before my second round is done, so there’s plenty more to come yet.

Happy Christmas from me to all of you, I hope it is a good one.

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