Cross purposes

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog:

Returning from my failed ascent of Harter Fell, I stopped at the old packhorse Birks Bridge (not the more modern one by the car park).

As I snapped away, happily taking photos of the bridge and of the gulley it spanned, I became uncomfortably aware that these images all seemed familiar and that I was just taking the same photos of everybody else; that these were the same images I had already encountered online doing my preliminary reading about the Duddon Valley.

Duddon Day 01 Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park

Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park I had very mixed feeling about this. Yes, it’s very picturesque, but as an artist I feel I should work a bit harder to look a little beyond the obvious. Then it struck me. All our photos seem to focus in on the river, but what about if we pay attention to what’s happening perpendicular to this? What happens if we instead think of the thoroughfares that the bridges were built to transport over the water? Suddenly the bridge looked very different! Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park

Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park I was still mulling over this shift in viewpoint when I arrived back at the more modern Birks Bridge. Birks bridge car park bridge (not Birks bridge). I think...

I don’t yet know where this train of thought will take me, but I think I need to resolve to look beyond the postcard views and look at things sideways on.

Not quite Harter Fell

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog:

Having successfully driven over Wrynose Pass, my plan was to then get out of the car and do a bit of walking. Online, I’d found a short circular walk that included climbing to the top of Harter Fell, where I’d also read the views could be great. Whilst I wasn’t sure I’d have a clear view, I thought I’d give it a try and, if I could , then that would be a great way of getting a sense of the valley.

Between Duddon and Dunnerdale Forest

Starting from the carpark near Birks Bridge, I negotiated some boggy ground before entering what the walk’s author had described as ‘desolate forest’. It was an uncannily good description. The photo below doesn’t really convey the feeling of it, but perhaps you get an inkling.

desolate forest

Hardknott forest is currently being restored from a conifer plantation to “native habitats of oak and birch woodland, bogs and open ground”. Well, I’d already found the bog, maybe the desolation was also by design?

Riding up out of the forest at Birks, I relocated the bridleway and, it turns out, lots more bogginess. There was a lot of water running off the fell, and in some places the track I was following was indistinguishable from a stream bed.

As I got higher, the way became harder to spot and, with the arrival of some rain showers, also quite slippery.


Mart Crag

I weighed my options and decided that it was probably best for me to cut my losses, turn around and head back down into the valley.

A couple of quick photos whilst perched on a rock, and then the rain started in earnest and I had to find a relatively flat spot on which to wrestle on my waterproof trousers!


Mart Crag

Mart Crag

This is as far as I made it before turning back (the blue line shows my track and the yellow line was the rough route I was hoping to follow):

Harter Fell (ish)

I think that means I made it onto Mart Crags, but not really anywhere near the top of Harter Fell. Oh well.

Having done a bit more reading online since, I think if I tried it again I would use the more southerly route that I had intended to use for my descent. There’s a nice write up of this alternative route here, with some lovely photos taken on a gorgeously clear day.

After returning to Birks I veered off to the right rather than retracing my steps back to the car. I wasn’t sure what to expect by this stage, but hopefully it would be a bit drier!

After a going over some fields and a little bit – but not too much – squelch, the bridleway nipped over a stone wall and suddenly I was following a nice wooded track.

Between Birks and Gold Rill Dub

Between Birks and Gold Rill Dub

I really liked this stile without an obstacle that looked a bit like some odd seating arrangements or some sort of minimalist sculpture.

Descending further down into the valley I increasingly became aware of the sound of pounding water. Ah! I must be getting close to the Duddon again!

The path took me close to the edge of a steep drop which I was reluctant to approach any closer, so I listened to the river for a while longer without being able to see it. Rounding a corner there was this dinky little bridge and Duddon itself. Now I could understand what all the noise was about!

Between Birks and Gold Rill Dub

Gold Rill Dub Gold Rill Dub

Crossing at the wooden (and very slippery) footbridge, I regained the tarmac’d road and made my way back to the car park, stopping off every so often to take a few photos.

Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park

Here’s one looking back up at the summit of Harter Fell. (Or where the summit should have been.) Probably just as well I didn’t push on for the top, as I don’t think I’d have seen much….

Between Gold Rill Dub and Birks Bridge car park


Over the top

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog:

Having chickened out of it on my quick recce to the Duddon Valley a fortnight ago, the time had come to bite the bullet and see if my car was up to the challenge of driving over Wrynose Pass. Success here would influence logistical decisions later on in the project, so I had to find out if it was an option or not.

morning walk into town

The view from Dove Cottage in the morning was of snow-dusted peaks and lingering cloud, so I wasn’t sure what I would be met with once I started to climb the pass.

Wrynose Pass

Well, a closer view of the snow, for a start!


Wrynose Pass

Wrynose Pass

Also some glorious views and dramatically-lit landscapes.



Wrynose Pass

I justified several photo stops in terms of giving the car a chance to cool down a bit!

I reached the top with no automobile-related dramas and crested the top of the pass to be greeted with…

Wrynose Pass

Ugh! A valley full of raincloud! Typical!


Wrynose Pass

It brightened up for a few more photographs and an opportunity to pause and reflect on how rapidly the Duddon had grown from the tiny little becks I’d seen earlier, to something that could now reasonably be called a river.


Cockley Beck bridge


I found myself wondering how one would have traveled between Grasmere and the Duddon Valley at the end of the 17th Century. Would it have been something you could have done as a day trip, or would it have been an undertaking of a few days?


First encounter with the Duddon

This post was originally published over on the By Duddon’s Side project blog:

I travelled up to the Lake District for a preliminary meeting at the Wordsworth Museum. Having a bit of time to spare I thought I’d take a detour to check out the valley that will be the main focus of this project.

Visibility was somewhat reduced and it was quite squelchy underfoot, but after 10 minutes strolling around on the banks of the Duddon near Ulpha I could understand that this place is a little bit special – I’m very much looking forward to having a proper explore.





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