Roman Ring 1, part 1
Mon 30th January 2012
Brampton to Hallbankgate 29th January 2012
Nice to see such a healthy turnout for this new route which included the old friends and new associates from deepest Cumbria, some individuals even forsook their usual “Lakes” walk to explore a new area – our intention to.
Locating the start was a bit different (i.e. off the beaten track) and the ice covered final rise to the RSPB car park allowed those with traction control to see how effective it was! It was sub-zero but calm so people were soon ready and sitting in the warmth of the minibus to read their newly distributed copies of The Roman Ring walking guide by Mark Richards.
We drove down to Brampton and were dropped-off adjacent to the start of the walk on Station Road. The walk along the dismantled railway embankment down to Brampton Station soon had us warmed-up and we hardly noticed the A69 as we went through the illuminated underpass. Crossing the Victorian footbridge over the railway provided a “photo opportunity” for tiers of grinning walkers before walking-on towards Talkin Tarn.
Once by the side of the lake it was time for elevenses, even if by now it was 11.30! The picnic benches and cafe were appreciated by all. Watching Canadian canoeists using their lightweight craft as icebreakers to get the final 30 meters in to the landing was a unique experience, as were the “odd” Mallards landing on the ice and sliding across the surface to finally plop into the water a little further out.
The walk around the Tarn gave a good idea of the Earl of Carlisle’s early plans for his personal pleasure ground before he presented it to the people of Brampton over a century ago. The now derelict Tan End House Hotel at its southern end was initially the “big house” looking north across the lake towards the large and impressive boathouse, a scene reminiscent of Ullswater 36 km to the south-west. Overlooking the setting of the Tarn from road to Talkin village it was easy to appreciate the effects of lowland glaciation with the lake surrounded by undulating mounds of boulder clay with ill-drained areas between the tree crowned mounds resulting from a mixture of solid ice and later meltwater activity at the close of the last ice age “only” 10,000 years ago!
The Blacksmith’s Arms in Talkin village was open but we managed to get everyone past safely by drawing attention to the distinctive vernacular architecture of the area that is so different from the Tyne Valley only a few miles distant. It was nice to see that even new development in the village adopted the local style, planning at its best. Travelling south towards the entrance to Geltsdale the former farmsteads strung out along the minor road had all been renovated and extended. Barn conversions into holiday accommodation and a dressage ring behind a former farmhouse spoke of easy access for commuters to Carlisle or even further away due to easy access to the M6 and for tourism in the area. By now the effects of elevenses were wearing-off so lunch was taken on the track just below the nine cairns on top of Talkin Fell. The panorama west to the snow covered Northern Lakeland Fells through north-west towards the Dumfries and Galloway Hills and northwards into Scotland was quite distinct. We could easily make out Carlisle and the hangars of Carlisle Airport near Crosby. Just as we set-off again we saw two roe deer moving quickly south further into Geltsdale below Tarnmonath Fell, their white rumps easily identifying them from a distance of about one and a half kilometres.
The afternoon’s route took us below Simmerson Hill via The Greens and Gairs before turning north onto the former old colliery railway track bed toward Howgill and eventually back to the car park. The Greens was occupied and improved but access to Gairs was more difficult. By now the very wet and muddy uphill track had melted but the water couldn’t run away. Rather wet, sticky progress was made by all. Gairs caused comment because the two former shepherds cottages were empty but had been recently reroofed, the windows sealed but fitted with ventilators, heavy metal doors with huge lock covers were also evident. The whole site was surrounded with a new wire fence with a stile and the outbuildings had been unroofed but both houses and outbuildings were in excellent condition, even the pointing was immaculate. However there was no obvious access by vehicle to the site. Even the two horsewomen we met between The Green and Gairs needed to take care. Nor was there any space for a helipad! There was lots of evidence of former primary industry in the valley, we past old limestone and sandstone quarries and flat-topped colliery waste tips closer to Howgill, very different to the rather remote rural feel it has today. Between Gairs and Howgill the track crosses the watershed between Geltsdale to the south and the valley of the Irthing to the north. From the col Tindale Tarn, north-east of Howgill, provided a new focus in the landscape.
The final leg from Howgill to the car park paralleled the former colliery railway reputedly used by Stephenson’s Rocket in its final days as a working engine. All that was left now was the gentle slide down the still ice covered north facing road beyond the car park (cars with traction control excepted) for the drive home. During our North Pennines excursion everyone had experienced a very different landscape from the more familiar Roman Wall or Lakeland ones we are so used to.