A lot seems to have happened since my last micro-adventure, which was now almost two years ago. Mrs W and Junior were to be at a weekend conference in Derbyshire, so my appetite was wetted (and by the end of the weekend it wasn’t the only thing that became a little soggy) and the idea for a micro-adventure was born.
Step back just over four years, when Junior was just a large bump; Mrs W and I enjoyed a low-level walk in the Forest of Bowland. Part way round brought us to Tarnbrook, a hamlet at the end of the road with just fell-side wilderness beyond. Coming down Gables Clough was a stream, one of the two feeder branches of the River Wyre, and next to it a track running up into the fells and disappearing into the horizon. One look and I was hooked, I was determined to find where this path led, because it seemed tantalizingly likely that it would lead up into one of the most remote and inaccessible areas of England. From what I can see, it is possible to get further from roads and houses in places in the Forest of Bowland than it is anywhere else in England. Scotland offers a lot more wilderness for sure, but Bowland is on my doorstep. Junior was born a few months later, I changed jobs – twice – and thus the delay in realizing my dream.
Pouring over a map revealed that grouse shooters track could take me up to a fell top Roman road known as The Hornby Road. This gravel track could take me to the middle of nowhere, and what finer place to walk to and set up camp for the night. The forecast looked poor for the Saturday, but to improve for the Sunday morning so I decided to brave the rain and go. Abandoning the car at the top of the Trough of Bowland I headed off on the Wyre Way to Tarnbrook and then up my tantalizing track. The initial plan was to climb Mallowdale Fell and then take a footpath to the East to enable a longer walk NW along The Hornby Road. However the weather closed in and I was unable to find any trace of the footpath. OK, in fairness I didn’t look that hard, because the ground either side of the track looked particularly soft (i.e. thigh deep peat) and uninviting. I followed the shooters track all the way up onto the Roman Road on the top of Salter Fell. Occasionally the cloud lifted for just a few seconds and revealed a view of the colourful NE flank of Mallowdale Fell.
The weather was not conducive to a lunch stop so I decided to up the pace and head for the first spot I had identified as a likely place to wild camp. The wind was building, so finding a flat patch of ground next to the crux of two stone walls, itself within a short stroll of a stream (for washing my pots after dinner) soon saw me pitching the tent.
Shortly after the heavens opened so I was delighted to be out of the weather and eating my lunch. It was only two o’clock but I had a good book with me and was warm and secure inside the tent. I love being in a tent, I find it endues such a sense of peace and secure restfulness. Three hours later I woke up refreshed and with the need of a pee and then some dinner. I was delighted to see that the cloud had now lifted for the day allowing me to drink in the view I had walked here for.
It proved a wild night but I was secure in a Niak from who I consider Europe’s premier tentmaker, Hilleberg and glad to be tucked behind the wall. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but experiencing wild weather in a tent doesn’t keep me awake, it actually helps me to sleep.
The next morning the storm had not passed as had been promised by the previous days forecast. In a lull I got the tent down and set off along the Hornby Road. The cloud was higher, but the wind was a steady force 8 and then the rain restarted.
Because of all the previous rain I decided to take what should be a drier path back to my starting point. The Withendale valley did not seem as attractive as it had seemed on the map, but having the rain stinging my eyes might well have flavoured my view. It was then a case of pushing on over two ridges back to the fell road. I stopped in the lea of some farm buildings in the valley for a quick lunch and then started up Whinn Fell to get back to the car. Upon getting some chocolate out to finish my lunch ‘on the hoof’ I was amused o find that all the sheep in the field came running to me in the hope of being fed
Finally I was back at the car. 8.5 miles on Day 1 and 10 miles on Day 2. These grouse-shooters roads offer a great way to get into these otherwise inaccessible fells whilst maintaining dry feet, but next time I’ll hold out for a sunny forecast.