Friday, 6 December 2013

The Fleak!

Last weekend I got in a couple of short, local walks.The first was with friend Alex and my son, Daniel.  Oxnop Beacon is a top on the broad ridge of moorland that separates Swaledale from Wensleydale, the highest point along which is Great Shunner Fell, famous for the fact that the Pennine Way crosses its summit.

Oxnop is visited less regularly. I'd not visited it before - mainly due to the fact that although I'd seen it on the map there was always something to do that looked more exciting. Much of the track to the summit is a well-established landrover track.

The walk itself was a pleasant surprise. Half way to the beacon the track peters out into a line of faint ruts and the signs of human activity are generally intriguing rather than intrusive - at one end of the gentle summit-ridge a sturdily-built cairn marks the summit itself, beside which is a stone shelter which may have been built for miners, walkers, or shepherds - we could not make our minds up which. The "beacon" is another tall cairn at the other end. It is often said that the lower tops in hilly areas offer the best views and this fell is no exception - you can see virtually all the major hills in the Yorkshire Dales from it. Unfortunately, though, we didn't take a camera.

This was not a mistake we made the next day. From the beacon I'd noticed a tarn, Summer Lodge Tarn, further along the ridge, to the East. It sits on a fell known as The Fleak. With a name like that, who wouldn't want to explore it? Lots of people, apparently. It seems to be rarely visited by walkers. From what I could find on the internet its main fans seem to be trig-point collectors (a hobby not without its attractions, I thought). What may put some people off is the fact that a road passes quite close to the summit. It has to be said that as roads go it's not for the faint hearted: it is an exceedingly steep, narrow thread of tarmac that, at it's highest point (1,775 feet), known as Windgates Currack, runs along the top of a steep edge - almost a cliff. We've often driven along this road, usually stopping to admire the view. It must surely come close to the top of any list of wild, hilltop roads in England - and ahead of several better-known ones. I had never, though, left the car behind and set off to the summit - the eccentrically named Conny Tammy Currack.

By Summer Lodge Tarn. Oxnop Beacon  is in the background.

The next day, Daniel and I set out to find it, armed with water, digestive biscuits, tangerines - and a camera. I drove most of the way up. We parked on the edge of the moor and set off along a ghost of a path, a landrover track that the fell was gradually reabsorbing, its ruts full of spongy moss. We found ourselves walking though an area of pits and low spoil-heaps, probably dug by lead miners years ago. There were shake-holes, too - natural pits where surface material has fallen into openings in the limestone underneath, like sand into an egg-timer. Oddly, though they were similar, there seemed to be subtle differences between these and the man-made pits. One fancied one could tell one from the other.  On our left, we caught sight of Summer Lodge Tarn. We made for it, as from it we'd be able to clearly see our way to the summit.

Great Whernside and Buckden Pike from The Fleak
As it happened, the top was easy -almost too easy- to find. A new-looking wire fence runs over the top of the moor, from the tarn to the trig point. Once there, recreational eating being one of the great pleasures of hill-walking, we stopped for a while, to admire the view and consume the biscuits and tangerines. I'd planned on walking from the summit to the highest point on the road (and, from there, back to the car). This turned out to be a boggy, pathless adventure, the peat riven in places with impressive, rambling groughs - the sort of place that cannot help but remind a Sherlock Holmes fan of the Great Grimpen Mire.

It wasn't that far to the road - but at least it was invisible almost to the last minute. Once on it, one could not help but wonder why anyone would build it there. I can only think that the builders opted to go up and along the top of the edge, rather than round it, as it provided the driest, firmest ground available. Either that, or they just did it for kicks, which I doubt.

Smoke by Semerwater, from The Fleak
A cairn on the Fleak, looking towards Summer Lodge Tarn and Swaledale


Tom Stephenson said...

What a fantastic place. I am truly envious.

Brigitta Huegel said...

Dear Dominic,
these are so beautiful views, thank you! Your post is one of the few where I have to use a dictionary - I know what a cairn is - but the word 'Fleak' for example - attributed as attractive by you - is nowhere to be found! 'Spoil-heaps; trig-point collectors; shake-holes" - they were to be found, but only with "digestives and tangerines" I was on well-known plane ground again - a place where I would stay in real life more often than climbing up that scary height, the 'cliff-like' summit :-)

Gwil W said...

Enjoyed. There's a guy called Pete Boggs who photographs these things and puts them on - you can find the Fleak on there; and there's also a Yorkshire brewed Fleak beer.

elaine said...

Magnificent scenery - are digestives and tangerines common walkers food

The Weaver of Grass said...

The WHOLE packet of digestive biscuits.
'Fleak' sounds a bit of s rude word to me.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments everyone.

A few points:

Shake hole. Students of English take note, I think I incorrectly hyphenated it.

I've heard of Boggs - probably a pseudonym, I decided. And I'd heard of of Fleak beer, but hadn't made the connection.

Digestives (only a couple as it happens) and tangerines are what we happened to have lying about when we made the spur-of-the moment decision to go for it.

Fleak, in common parlance today, apparently means a false leak, deliberately made by a company to the press.

am said...

Especially like the photo of Summer Lodge Tarn. I had to look up quite a few words, too! A good walk!

GOAT said...

As Brigitta noted, lots of nice British English here! In Korea the English is of two kinds: American and Konglish. So I enjoyed the digestive biscuits and the landrover path as much as the beautiful place names.

In Australia we tend to go for the very prosaic in (relatively modern) landmark names: a friend recently did a blog post littered with names like "Mt Disappointment" and "Mt Buggery".

No, not sure if there's any connection between the Buggery and the Disappointment.