BB1013 : The Fools on the Hill

Thursday 1st April 2010

One of the really nice things about writing this blog is the occasional, unexpected contact received from people who are totally unknown to us.  If there is a pattern, it is that they have found us incidentally via a Google search and have a historic connection with the Lake District but are themselves now long removed to distant parts.  

One such message was received yesterday, referring back to a rather wet walk that we undertook in September 2008, BB0829 : Mosedale Cottage Revisited, in which Tony, who has a thing about memorials, spotted one unusually positioned under a bridge in Longsleddale.  The e-mail said:

    I have just been browsing the net and came across your report of a walk in 2008 up Longsleddale.  You mentioned the memorial plaque to Denys Beddard (1917-85) on the underpart of a bridge.

    Denys Beddard was my father.  He and my mother retired to the lake district - my mother having been born there - although they had lived in many other parts of England and Scotland during my father's working life in medical administration. My mother (now nearly 90) still lives in the Lake District.  I, as you see, live in France and sadly don't get back to the Lakes very often.

    Sue S.

Sue, thank you for contacting us and explaining the mystery of the plaque.

By one of life's strange coincidences, we were in Longsleddale again today, albeit at the lower end of the valley, seeing as how the prediction for the higher tops was gale force winds and blizzard conditions making navigation at times impossible and with a very high wind chill factor.  Indeed, yesterday, even the Met Office's fell top assessor had had to turn back at Swirral Edge due to the extreme conditions.

Mind you, all that seemed like an April Fool's story when I got up.  The sun was actually shining and it looked a half decent day.  But the 03:22 Met Office mountain forecast was still insistent on blizzards and wind chills.  Only fools would venture out in such conditions.  Would we be the fools on the hill?

    Alone on a hill,
    The men with the foolish grins are keeping perfectly still
    But nobody wants to know them,
    They can see that they are just fools,

Because a late-ish start seemed preferable, I was able to indulge in one of my other interests- taking photos of steam engines as they come through Natland to publish on the Natland website.  

6201 Princess Elizabeth approaching Oxenholme

That makes two hobbies for which an anorak is essential! Actually it was, because the train was held at signals for fifteen minutes whilst I stood in a bit of a hail shower waiting. I began to think that maybe I was the April fool.  But then the train came through, the sun shone, I got my pictures and went off to pick up Stan and Bryan.

The fresh fall of snow contrasting with spring in the valley made Longsleddale look really inviting.  We parked by St Mary’s Church (see BB0829) and headed south a little way to cross the river.  We might actually have trespassed a wee bit before picking up the path on the west side of the valley down to Docker Nook- a house with literary connections- if you count Meg and Mog as literary- see Where Are They Now?  Here we took the bridle path up Dockernook Gill before emerging onto the open fell of Sleddale Forest.

Approaching Longsleddale

Meg & Mog's Docker Nook

The combination of patches of fresh, wet snow, tufty ground and a bitter wind made the going quite tough despite the sunshine and clear air.  There were excellent long distance views in all directions.

The Howgills catch the sun

Skeggles Water with Kentmere Fells behind

Heading towards Skeggles Water, Stan took a different route to avoid / minimise the bogs to that taken by Bryan and me. All of a sudden he started jumping up and down excitedly and shouting.  He reminded me of the character in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark:

    "There is Thimgumbob shouting!" the Bellman said.
    "He is shouting like mad, only hark!
    He is waving his hands, he is wagging his head,
    He has certainly found a Snark!"

Bryan was not impressed.  “I don’t like going back, “ he said. “This had better be good.”

It was.  It wasn’t a snark but it was a creature that we had heard about, read about but had never previously seen.  It was an adder.  Coiled up on a tuft, sunning itself.

The Adder sunning itself

Comitibus: Skeggles Water

On the other side of Skeggles Water we found a ruined shepherd’s hut which provided sufficient shelter for us to forget about the bitter wind and enjoy the view, half a lunch and too long a sun bathe.  Emerging, I had forgotten just how cold that wind was.  Not a day to be on the highest tops!

Room with a view

Stan and Bryan sunning themselves

Dropping down off Cocklaw Fell to Till’s Hole, I have never seen Longsleddale looking so good.  The upper hills were covered in snow but the lower slopes had greened up and the sun was shining.  Magnificent.

After crossing the valley, we climbed up past Stockdale with its washing and its rather unusual and large limestone kiln- unusual because this is not limestone country.

Stockdale washing for Margaret!

Stan investigates the lime kiln

We listened to the pipes carrying a rush of "deep water and strong currents" to Manchester and then carried on up Brow Gill.  Crossing the Gill was actually quite a challenge involving prodigious leaps!

Deep water and strong currents cross the gill

Brow Gill

As we climbed, the snow was deepening but was still wet and heavy.  Bryan took a direttissimo route up Ancrow Brow whilst Stan and I preferred a less steep variant via the shoulder.  

Bryan demonstrates the snow depth

 Ancrow Brow Summit

High Cup Nick

In the far distance, in the Pennines, Bryan spotted High Cup Nick, the "Gurt La'al Canyon" that we had visited on BB0816.

It formed a long dark scar across a snowy landscape. I didn't think it would come out on a photograph, so faint was it to the naked eye, but it has.  Just!

After following the long, long fence along by Swinklebank to Capplebarrow, still in conditions very different to the last time we had been up here (BB0820 : The Bannisdale Horseshoe), we decided on an unofficial descent that we had spotted from our lunch stop.

The fence to Capplebarrow

The fence back to Swinklebank

The led us down a farm track on land that, for whatever reason, seems unreasonably to have escaped the Right To Roam provisions.  Dropping down to Yewbarrow Hall, we were wondering what to say if the farmer appeared with his shot gun.  The last thing I wanted to do was climb back up that hill and take the long way back to the car.

Bryan was anxious to provide a trail that showed that we had reached there using gates which in the event was not entirely the case!

Stan was hoping that the land was, in fact, owned by an acquaintance of his called, appropriately, Farmer.

My excuse was that my feet had got so cold and wet in the bogs on the snow covered fells that I had lost feeling in my toes and was frightened of frostbite and needed to get off the hills as soon as possible- well, when in trouble I find that it pays to stick as close to the truth as possible!

Actually, we needn’t have worried.  No such challenge emerged but we ended the walk as we started it, with a trespass.  Lord, forgive us.

So, were we the fools on the hill, today?  Despite the date and the forecast, definitely not.  We had been prepared for the worst but were lucky with the weather- apart from the cold it had been a spectacular day and I have the suntan (or is it windburn?) to prove it.  

    But the fools on the hill
    See the sun going down,
    And the eyes in their heads,
    See the world spinning 'round.

Don, 1st April 2010, with apologies to Lennon & McCartney



Bryan drew my attention to Geoffrey Berry’s book Mardale Revisited.

This explains that Haweswater’s water is drawn off through the tower that was build with stone from the demolished church.

An aquaduct flows first by the Mardale tunnel, 1,600 feet under Branstree, to Longsleddale.  

The end of the tunnel

At the time it was built (1934) it was the longest water tunnel in Britain requiring 250 tons of gelignite for the blasting work. 

At Stockdale in Longsleddale the tunnel emerges and the aquaduct goes on by pipeline underground along the eastern slopes of Longsleddale to Garnett Bridge where it was joined to the Thirlmere Aquaduct before having its own pipeline built in 1948.


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1st April 2010

Distance in miles:


Height climbed in feet:


Wainwrights: (Outlying Fells)

Half of the Bannisdale Horseshoe

Other Features:

Longsleddale, Skeggles Water, Adder

Wainwright Countdown:

Don & Stan: 31     Bryan: 7 (all unchanged)


Bryan, Don, Stan

If you have Memory Map on your computer, you can follow our route in detail by downloading BB1013.

Steve G advises: "For those who like to look at your meanderings but use Tracklogs or other software then your logs can be converted using the freeware utility GPS Babel."

For the latest totals of the mileages, heights and Lakeland Fells Books Wainwrights see: Wainwrights.

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!





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BOOT boys

This page describes an adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear but is in memory of Big Josie, the erstwhile landlady of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!

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2010 Outings

BB1001 :
The Most Perfect
 Winter Day
Thursday 7th January

BB1002 :
 Potter Fell
Thursday 14th January

BB1003 :
A Snowy Equipment Test

Thursday 21st January

BB1004 :
Leave It To The Professionals

Thursday 28th January

BB1005 :
That's A Lyth Record
Sunday 31st January 

BB1006 :
Reasons To Be Cheerful
One, Two, Three
Thursday 11th February

BB1007 :
Can You See Clearly Now?
Thursday 18th February

BB1008 :
In Memory Of
Thomas Williamson
Thursday 25th February

BB1009 :
Almost a Mountaineer!
Wednessday 3rd March

BB1010 :
The Beginning Of The End
Thursday 11th March

BB1011 :
The Free Men on Tuesday
Tuesday 16th March

BB1012 :
We'll Get Them In Singles,
Thursday 25th March

BB1013 :
The Fools on the Hill
Thursday 1st April

BB1014 :
The Windmills on the Moor
Wednesday 7th April



BSB2010 :
boys in Zillertal
Saturday 30th January
to Saturday 6th February




Click on the photos for an enlargement or related large picture.



To download a log of which Wainwrights have been done by which BOOTboy in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent of BOOTboys click on Wainwrights

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!