|Sat, 2 Feb 2008 17:31
|The Duddon is a splendid Lake District valley. By vehicle it is accessible only via long winding lanes from the south, or rugged mountain passes from other directions. Its short course is full of variety. The pictures will be split into three groups.
1) SOURCE TO WALLOWBARROW
This is the geograph closest to the source of the Duddon, these being the southern slopes of Pike o'Blisco. Although not as dramatic as the Langdale side, these are still craggy slopes.
The summit of the Wrynose Pass was long the meeting point of three counties - Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire. The stone stands as a reminder.
The yoouthful river rushes down past an area known as Wrynose Breast into a flatter area known as Wrynose Bottoms. This view looks up to the summit of the pass.
The first view captures the early stages of the Duddon down the western side of Wrynose Pass. Many are the times this place is shrouded in cloud and the road streaming almost as a double of the river. The second picture looks from Great Carrs across to the high peaks north of the infant Duddon.
The passes are famed among those who like more adventurous motoring. In winter conditions they really can be dangerous. Otherwise negotiating traffic is the adventure....
At Cockley Beck the river makes a definite turn south, a course it then follows quite consistently towards the eastuary and the Irish Sea. The bridge is by the only road junction for miles around - 3 splendid choices, as long as you are not in a hurry.
At Cockley Beck a tributary flows in from Mosedale to the north. This is an excellent way for hikers to reach upper Eskdale, undoubtedly the finest valley head in England. Mosedale means mossy valley - all 6 Lakeland Mosedales are boggy (A Wainwright being the authority for this). The downward view shows Mosedale joining the Duddon itself.
In this atmospheric view from the Hardknott side the wildness of the overall scene is emphasised by the contrast of the small cultivated area south of Cockley Beck.
The eastern side of Hardknott Pass belongs to the Duddon. A tributary has carved out the tree filled gorge on the slopes used by the road. The zig-zags are well seen in this view. If driving the Wrynose was scary, don't even try the Hardknott - it's much trickier! By the way, the OS has the summit of both passes at the same altitude.
Now we must start following the river south. In this section the rocky ramparts of Castle How catch the eye even amongst the higher fells all around.
Hereabouts a picture is better than a thousand words.
From downstream, a last lingering look north. Castle How still prominent. Never mind, there is still plenty of interest to come.
The Duddon cuts a dash through a little gorge. Much of the valley has been forested for years. The Forestry Commission is actively replanting with more mixed woodlands.
Birks Bridge spans the gorge, and is the most popular stopping point between Cockley Beck and Seathwaite. I think we can see why.
A dramatic change of mood from fast and noisy to slow and quiet. Deep here too.
Some distance from Birks Bridge is the little cluster of buildings at Birks itself. Formerly a farm, now an outdoor centre. If not stone faced, the regular alternative for Lakeland builings is to be white, as is Browside Farm. (Or, how about a bit of both - Hollin House not far away near Tarn Beck).
The widening Duddon is spanned by a wooden footbridge at Troutal. The second picture is near stepping stones a little downstream.
The western slopes of the Duddon valley feature a fine track near Grassguards. The left picture looks northeast to Grey Friar, the northwestern outpost of the Coniston Fells which claims the bank of the Duddon for several miles.
Tarn Beck is the major tributary joining the Duddon from the heart of the Coniston Fells. High up a dam was built to form Seathwaite Tarn.
Below the dam, Tarn Beck winds across a high shelf with excellent views to Harter Fell. This fell domintaes the upper western reaches of the Duddon, and is also a fine fell on the Eskdale side. (This picture proves the point that mountain views are often best at mid height. The pictured summit is always likely to be a few kilometres away, so for geograph purposes a good foreground is needed to anchor the picture in its home gridsquare. This one is a perfect example).
For reasons soon to become clear, we shall stay with Tarn Beck a while. This overlooks its own considerable valley floor. Strictly speaking then, this is not the Duddon valley.
The valley road passes a lovely series of waterfalls just north of Seathwaite. However, the waters are not the Duddon, but Tarn Beck. If you are following all this, the next picture is the one you are waiting for....
High Tongue. There are many "tongues" in the Lake District, tapering high ground between streams. Travelling down the valley, the Duddon road has to be diverted by the impasse of Wallowbarrow Gorge, and so it wanders across to Tarn Beck instead. Seathwaite is not by the Duddon, but Tarn Beck.
|Sat, 2 Feb 2008 20:47
|2. WALLOWBARROW TO DUDDON BRIDGE
Wallowbarrow Gorge is one of those places difficult to convey in a photograph. SD2296 is the heart of one of A Wainwright's top square miles in the Lake District. Who would I be to disagree?
These delightful steeping stones are found just as the gorge widens to the south. Do not rely on being able to cross this or other Duddon stepping stones in wet weather! Here a bridge is a nearby alternative. On the right we backtrack north to more stepping stones. From these long diversions north or south are required to find bridges in times of flood.
At Seathwaite (by Tarn Beck) we find the first church and pub for travllers descending the valley.
Tarn Beck is itself a considerable stream, seen just before it joins the Duddon. There are lovely bluebell woods around. Autumn is, of course, also a wonderful season here.
Just below Wallowbarrow there are some rare areas of flat ground. The second picture gives a good overall view of the section of the valley south of the gorge.
Hall Dunnerdale is a small, scattered community. From memory there is a postbox on the middle of the bridge from which the upstream view was taken. (Hmm, there's a photo opportunity). The general lack of flat ground is emphasised in the view of grazing land amidst rocky outcrops. The picture is also a long overdue introduction to sheep in this sequence.
How did we get so far without seeing sheep? Well, I had better make up for it now. How we must hope the scourge of foot and mouth does not return to these parts.
The fell sheep remind me to take an excursion on to the marvelous Dunnerdale Fells for views overlooking the valley. On the maps, "Dunnerdale" is only to be found at Hall Dunnerdale and a short stretch of valley nearby, plus large areas of fellside to the east of the Duddon. Strictly speaking, I do not think the term Dunnerdale should be used to refer to the whole of the Duddon valley, and at most the stretch between Seathwaite and Whinneray Ground. There were extensive slate workings in these hills.
Before reaching Ulpha, we must just cross the valley for the views from the other side. The Birker Fell road climbs directly from the valley and forms a scenic route to Eskdale.
Not all is wilderness. The valley floor is sheltered enough to allow fine specimen trees to grow in places. An evening spent at a "Praise and Prayer" event at Ulpha church was an unforgettable experience. The school is closed though, and it must be miles to the nearest alternative. The road bridge is a popular stopping place on sunny summer afternoons.
High above Ulpha to the west a plateau of high land is well farmed with superb views. Frith Hall was a hunting lodge before falling into ruin.
Beyond Ulpha the Duddon is quite large, but remains youthful and fast flowing all the way down to the estuary - no lazy meandering around here. Wainwright has been mentioned, and sheep, but of course, Wordsworth must not be forgotten! He wrote a substantial set of sonnets themed around the Duddon.
I seek the birthplace of a native stream,
All hail, ye mountains! Hail thou morning light!
Better to breathe at large on this clear height
Than toil in needless sleep from dream to dream:
Pure flow the verse, pure, vigorous, free, and bright,
For Duddon, long-loved Duddon, is my theme.
The low but wonderfully rugged and varied Dunnerdale Fells detain us again with views to cherish around every corner. And there are plenty of secretive little corners around here.
The middle section of the journey down the Duddon is almost complete. The lower stretches are deeply set and thickly wooded. Secretive and not easy to photograph. No flowing out to some wide plain. The valley is steep sided and narrow all the way.
The Duddon valley lane is gentle for only a few hundred metres to the cluster of buildings at Bank End. It soon shows its real colours as it climbs steeply away from the river.
Signs of industry once again, as found across the moutains of the Lake District. Here it was iron working (later done on much larger scales near the coast at Barrow and Millom). Here the scale was quite in keeping with the landscape. The plentiful trees provided renewable fuel resources in the form of charcoal.
So we reach Duddon Bridge. (Calling all geograh-ers - photo needed of the bridge itself). How vital the A595 is to west Cumbria! If closed, to get from Barrow to Millom large vehicles would have to go via Keswick (or even Penrith) and Whitehaven.... The picture looks across the Lickle Valley, with the Duddon running behind the foremost ridge of trees - another tongue to go with High Tongue described previously near Seathwaite.
|Mon, 4 Feb 2008 18:10
|3. DUDDON ESTUARY ESCURSION
What still seems like a youthful stream at Duddon Bridge is within two km definitely an estuary with the regular tidal influence the term entails. Here the plan is to break down into three further subsections.
a) The head of the estuary to Hallthwaites and Kirkby in Furness.
There is plenty of scope for more pictures here, but not all the squares have easy access.
The first pictures gives an impression of the sudden narrowing from the estuary to the narrow wooded valley of the Duddon to the lest of the picture. The other picture is at high tide - the estuary never looks full for long. The rise and fall is rapid.
A general view the estuary which runs in fron of the long line of hills running north from Black Combe. The A5092 affords wonderful views to the southern Lakeland fells too.
The West Cumbria railway line makes a lengthy diversion around the estuary (but much shorter and quicker than the road links between Barrow and Millom). The station at Kirkby in Furness adjoins saltmarsh and a tidal creek. Then comes the bridge across a narrow point of the estuary. On the west side at Green Road the line is set further back.
A glimpse of the estuary across the fields by the lane from Ladyhall to Hallthwaites.
b) Easten shore from Kirkby-in-Furness to Sandscale Haws and Lowsy Point.
Backing the eastern side of the estuary is a line of smooth hills. A steep lane provides stunning views to Black Combe (not untypically with its head in the clouds) and the rugged Lakeland fells off the picture to the north.
Down at sea level, putting these pictures together gives an impression of the ever changing moods and views depending on season, tide and weather. Areas of saltmarsh give way to sands. The footpaths shown are rarely trodden these days and crossing on foot requires a guide or a great deal of up to date local knowledge.
Sandscale Haws is an extensive system of dunes bulging out into the estuary. The flora and fauna are of great interest. Natterjack toads are a speciality found along certain stretches of the coast.
Here we bid farewll to the eastern shore, with Black Combe across the way always a magnet for the eye and camera lens. The most marvelous sunsets can regularly be enjoyed. The last picture shows the sun setting over the southernmost tip of the old county of Cumberland, the dunes near Haverigg.
c) The western shores from Hallthwaites to Haverigg
An old notice and little sign of walkers confirm the infrequent foot crossings. The OS map is correct to say ""WARNING. Public rights of way across Duddon Sands are dangerous. Seek local guidance." Meanwhile the railway is set just behind a long embankment built for protection of the line and agricultural land.
The receding tide exposes more saltmarsh and a maze of channels and pools.
The juxaposition of mountains and maritime features is impressive.
Millom remains a remote community to this day. The town rapidly grew with large scale ironworkings in the later 1800s. Closure in the late 1960s has led to many precarious years for the local economy despite the splendid setting. Black Combe overlooks the town. The estuary can also be seen from the railway bridge by the station.
These days Hodbarrow is an area of endless fascination. For so long dominated by industrial works, the area is slowly re-emerging as a nature reserve of distinction, especially noted for diverse flora and birdlife. The industry leaves a lasting legacy in the sea wall and lagoon.
Haverigg dunes mark the southern tip of the old county of Cumberland. The expanse of sea and sand shows that the Duddon has finished its course. Just linger to take in the glories of the local sunsets.