The Postal Museum at Mount Pleasant, WC1, opened to the public on 28 July last year (2017) with Mail Rail opening on 4 September. My sister and I spent a few days in London just after new year and near the top of our ‘must-do’ list was a visit to the museum and a ride on the train. As you might guess the museum is devoted to the story of the 500 years of the British postal service since Henry VIII tasked Sir Brian Tuke with establishing a national postal network to serve his Court.
John at The Signal Box
Saturday 7 May : Armathwaite Signal Box visit & short walk, 7 miles Moderate
Visit the restored signal box and optional short circular walk. Coombs Wood – Longdales – Ainstable – Armathwaite. Alight (11.15 connects with 08.49 train from Leeds) & return Armathwaite (16.32 train to Leeds). (For signal box visit only return on 14.40 train). (J&TJ) [John and Tracey Johnson]
“High in the breathtaking scenery of the Snowdonia National Park, this charming little cottage was built in 1863 for Henry Hovendon, Superintendent of the Ffestiniog Railway. Today, it is decaying; the lathe and plaster ceilings have collapsed from water penetration, and the floors and joinery are rotten. Abandoned for nearly a decade and recently listed Grade II, Coed y Bleiddiau’s remote setting has left it impractical for modern daily life.”
Last Saturday dawned bright and sunny and the day stayed perfect in every way throughout. I crept quietly out of Gladstone’s Library at 10 past 6 in the morning and arrived at Porthmadog Harbour Station Car Park at about 20 to 8. This was a day to remember! I was invited by two friends who are patrons of The Landmark Trust to ride the Ffestiniog Railway and view the ruined property which the Trust are about set to restore in partnership with the Railway.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a railway walk but with my new diary in hand on New Year’s Eve I scanned the Foscl and Dalesrail and other guided walks websites and pencilled in a few dates including :
Saturday 2nd January 2016 – Heysham to Morecambe via Middleton and the Coastal Route. Travel on the 08.19 Leeds to Morecambe train and book, alight & return Morecambe (bus out to Heysham) 8 miles Easy. Continue reading
Kirkby Stephen and Eden Viaducts Classic – 7mi Medium
Kirkby Stephen station – Tommy Road – Lammerside Castle – Nateby – Eden Viaducts – Kirkby Stephen. Alight (11.22) and return Kirkby Stephen. Connects with 09.47 train from Leeds. Return on vintage bus from Kirkby Stephen Town to Station or visit the Classic Vehicle Rally at Brough by vintage bus after the walk. (JD/DW)
Leaders and walkers (and dogs) assemble at Kirkby Stephen Station
This was my plan for Easter Saturday to join the walk organised and led by volunteers of The Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line. Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria is, so far, the furthest that I have travelled up the line for a day out walking.
Kirkby Stephen Station
As at Dent Station it is possible to stay at Kirkby Stephen Station and you have a choice of accommodations :
Platform Cottage or Booking Office Cottage
Or at The Station Master’s House at Ribblehead Station
The whole day was well worthwhile despite the delayed return home. The train journey alone up the Pennine Chain is incredibly beautiful and the emptiness and remoteness of the landscape never ceases to amaze.
Mallerstang Common from near Tommy Road
Wild Boar Fell from our path near Tommy Road
Our path under the railway line
Turning off Tommy Road (before you ask, no-one seems to know why it is called Tommy Road) we headed under the Settle-Carlisle Railway line and on to our picnic lunch spot Lammerside Castle.
Lammerside Castle with Mallerstang behind
The ruined castle is on private land by the public footpath/bridleway passes alongside. The website [below] also shows an interesting aerial photograph of the site.
“Lammerside Castle is a 12th century building which was rebuilt and strengthened in the 14th century as a Pele tower, to provide protection against Scots raiders. It is situated on the bridle path between Pendragon Castle and Wharton Hall.
The ruins include the upstanding remains of a C14 tower or wing which originally formed part of the building’s central core, together with the earthwork remains of buildings to the north and south of the tower and a barmkin wall which enclosed a yard to the west of the tower.
The castle was occupied by a branch of the Wharton family, but is thought to have been abandoned in C17, when the family moved to the fortified manor house, Wharton Hall, near Kirkby Stephen.
The tower is constructed of coursed, squared rubble, measures 14m by 11m, with a barrel-vaulted ground floor, and survives to two storeys high.” [Website]
From the Castle ruins after lunch our route took us past Wharton Hall itself described here on the Visit Cumbria website.
“[Wharton Hall] is a very impressive 14th century tower house with a gatehouse, internal courtyard and out buildings dating up to the 17th century. The gatehouse, although ruined is very solid, and together with the curtain wall, completely surrounds the medieval courtyard.“
Crossing the River Eden and passing close by the village of Nateby we later arrived at our next point of interest – The Eden Viaducts.
The Northern Viaduct Trust acquired part of the old Stainmore Railway track and several walks have been developed in the area connecting with the trackbed of the former railway.
“Just above and to the south of Kirkby Stephen ran the long forgotten and scenically majestic Stainmore Railway. For a 100 years it linked Darlington with Tebay and Penrith, a 60-mile steam- worked railway across some spectacularly engineered viaducts.” [From Leaflet]
Abandoned Platelayers’ Hut now provides Information
Information boards are provided in the Platelayers’ Huts along the former track and there is some overlap with a Poetry Path around Kirkby Stephen town. Read here also about Thomas Bouch the engineer responsible for this dramatic railway and his ill-fated Tay Railway Bridge.
Poetry Stone on the Poetry Path
Poetry Stone close-up
Today’s Ruins of a Signal Box and the Box in better days
Leaving the Viaducts behind us we joined the Coast-to-Coast Long Distance Footpath for the final leg of the walk into Kirkby Stephen where everyone was having a fun time at the street stalls, fairground rides and viewing and riding on the vintage vehicles.
Approaching Kirkby Stephen along the Coast-to-Coast path
Coast-to-Coast Path Sign at Frank’s Bridge, Kirkby Stephen
Kirkby Stephen on Easter Saturday
Our walk officially ended in Kirkby Stephen but there were plenty of free vintage buses to take us the final one and a half miles up to the railway station. I caught the number 134 Routemaster London Double-Decker (diverted from it’s Highgate Route). Unfortunately at the station I had a very long wait – I had just missed the 15.22, the 16.39 was cancelled and the 17.14 was running over an hour late. But it was such an interesting walk and the train had brought us so high up that we could enjoy wonderful extensive views with very little climbing effort. Even the delays in getting home didn’t take the shine off the day.
My Vintage Red London Bus at Kirkby Stephen Station
“Sat 22 Mar – Dentdale Explorer – 7mi Moderate
Dent Station – Cowgill – Dales Way – Whernside Manor – Deepdale – Coventree – Dent Village. Alight (12.12) and return Dent. Connects with 10.49 train from Leeds. (JD/DW) Please ring to book your place on the return minibus from Dent Village to Dent Station. [About 5 miles]”
That was the description of the guided walk organised by the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line on Saturday. Leaving Leeds in bright sunshine and with a cloudless blue sky we arrived at Dent Station to a rain shower closely followed by a hail storm which turned into blinding snow. By the time we (five of us) reached Cowgill and the Dee valley bottom all weathers had cleared temporarily but we were beset by rain showers (some heavy) and cold winds for most of the walk.
Signpost at Cowgill – formerly in the West Riding of Yorkshire and complete with OS Grid Reference
Much of our route followed the Dales Way long distance path that crosses the country from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness on the shores of Lake Windermere. I’m familiar with and have walked most of it between Ilkley and Yockenthwaite so it was interesting to fill in a section with which I was not familiar. As we left Cowgill we were able to pick out across the river the 150 year old church of St John, Cowgill. My Dales Way Companion by Paul Hannon tells me that “Outside are the unmarked graves of smallpox victims from railway construction days.”
With variations in the weather tracks took us across fields, through former pinewoods, along quiet country lanes past waterfalls at full spate, ancient farm buildings and a deserted chapel.
View from our lunch spot
Former Pine Woods now cleared
The deserted chapel near Whernside Manor
Ancient Farm Building
First View of Dent
Finally and quite suddenly we arrived at the quiet backwater village of Dent. At some point we must have crossed the border between North Yorkshire and Cumbria for, although within the boundary of The Yorkshire Dales National Park, Dent is in the South Lakeland district of Cumbria. On Saturday afternoon the village was very quiet. The cobbled streets were practically deserted. We had about an hour to explore before catching the bus back up the valley to the rather mis-named Dent station nearly 5 miles away.
The Main Streets in Dent
Our leader Duncan first explained some of the history of Dent. One notable son was Adam Sedgwick one of the founders of British Geology. Sedgwick was born in Dent in 1785 the son of the local vicar.
The Old Vicarage – Adam Sedgwick’s Birthplace
Granite Memorial to Adam Sedgwick in Dent Main Street
He was educated at nearby Sedbergh School and went up to Cambridge University where he became a Fellow in 1810 and by 1818 he was Woodwardian Professor of Geology. Read more about Sedgwick and his geological studies here. The Cambridge University Earth Sciences Museum is called The Sedgwick Museum.
We then learnt about the Terrible Knitters of Dent and the unusual knitting method they employed. The last of the knitters, Elizabeth Hartley and Elizabeth Middleton died in 2007 aged 93 and 91 years respectively.
Typical 3-storey house in Dent
There are two pubs and two tea shops in Dent but before heading for one of the cosy tea shops we had a look round the church.
“ The church of St. Andrew is a Norman foundation, though largely rebuilt in 1417 and restored in 1590. The top storey of the 1614 three-decker Jacobean pulpit is still in use. The chancel is paved with fossil-rich marble, quarried in Dentdale. The box pews were removed in 1889, much of the wood being used to panel the walls of village cottages. On the south side of the aisle are the famous pews of the 24 sidesmen. Originally yeomen farmers, today landowners of Dent, they have shared with the Bishop (now of Bradford) the patronage of the living since 1429.” [Source]
The Remainder of the Jacobean Pulpit
Fossil-Rich Marble floor
The Western Dales Bus left Dent promptly at 17.05 and brought us back along the valley to Dent Station comfortably in time to catch the 17.32 train back to Leeds where I noted it had also been raining.
You can stay at Dent Railway Station!
On Saturday I travelled via Leeds City Station to Ribblehead leaving the shopping hordes behind in Leeds. I was joining my second walk organised by the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line :
Sat 21 Dec Ribblehead to Horton via Selside 6m M(oderate)
Ribblehead station – Colt Park – Selside – Borrins – Sulber Nick.
Alight Ribblehead (10.06), return Horton-in-Ribblesdale. (DW/BH) (Alias Duncan and Brenda)
As we travelled along the line from Leeds the dark clouds gathered and I was glad to have a set of waterproofs as rain was forecast for the Settle area.
Brenda, Peter and Duncan at Ribblehead Station
Five hardy ‘wanderers’ assembled on the platform at Ribblehead just as the heavens opened and fierce horizontal rain blew like needles in our faces. We set off though; leaving the station behind and passing through Ingleborough National Nature Reserve.
After about 20 minutes the rains blew over and we only had to cope with what seemed to me gale force wind. Our path followed relatively easy, grassy tracks across fields. And later stony, slippery limestone paths through limestone pavement but all very clearly marked. According to Duncan our leader it’s a wet area all year and in places, especially where we finally descended into Horton-in-Ribblesdale, we had to step across many little rivulets and some rather boggy areas. The area is very popular with pot-holers and we passed very near to the famous cave system of Alum Pot.
We even saw some snow!
This way to Alum Pot … no fear!!
Eventually, after a brief lunch stop sheltering under a dry stone wall the sun came out and we saw some blue sky. As we turned to follow the final two miles of path down towards Horton the wind became more favourable to us battering us to the side rather than head on.
At some point near the end of the walk we had all three of the famous Three Peaks in sight : Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-Y-Ghent.
Pen-Y-Ghent enjoying a little blue sky and sunshine
The sheep match the background landscape
Finally we arrived at our destination in the light. Saturday was the shortest day but we managed our hike in the daylight which hadn’t seemed possible when we started.
Thanks to Duncan and Brenda, our indomitable volunteer leaders, for taking us out today and despite the stormy start I wouldn’t have swopped my day for a day’s shopping for anything!
Ribblehead (top LH corner) to Horton (bottom middle) via paths to the west of the railway line
When I last went over to Lancaster from Shipley (West Yorkshire) Station I noticed several people dressed for hiking in the Dales waiting on the platform. They seemed to recognise each other but were obviously not specially friends. They were joining walks organised by the Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line or Dalesrail and had obviously met each other on previous walks. It seemed like an excellent way to enjoy walking in more distant parts of the Yorkshire Dales so I decided to find out more.
Later in the Tourist Office at Leeds Station I picked up two walks leaflets and, being aware that I was not interested in 14+ mile strenuous walks and being away or otherwise engaged some weekends, I selected a few walks on dates towards the end of 2013 that I thought I be able to manage. The first of these was today:
Walk leader: DW/BH (Bob had stepped in for Duncan W)
Garsdale Station – Yore House – Thwaite Bridge – Cotter End – High Dyke – Blades – Moorcock Inn – Garsdale Station.
Special Instructions: Alight (10.21) and return Garsdale.
Date and time: Sat, 30/11/2013 (All day)
Length: 8 miles
Assembling at Garsdale Station.
Five walkers and two dogs joined two leaders (Bob and Brenda) on Garsdale Station northbound platform this morning in bright sunshine and enjoyed the 8 mile hike. There was one steepish climb – but remember ‘No pain, no gain’ – to a high ridge path with wonderful views and the perfect late November picnic spot. The day could not have been better.
Our path took us under the viaduct
Past a herd of sheep being assembled
Over the River Ure
Past Yore House
After Thwaite Bridge House we climbed up to join Lady Anne’s High Way
And enjoyed a picnic (our bench awaits) at the highest point of the walk – Cotter End
From the High Way we could see the extent of our walk
We descended from the High Way to join the Pennine Bridleway
With plenty of time to spare we took a short detour to view the ruins of an Inn on the High Way
Once a busy inn along a main thoroughfare for sheep drovers and the like now a ruin
As the sun went down we headed back down to the River Ure and …
Sunset at Settle Station from the train window
Our train left at 3.35pm and we witnessed a wonderful sunset over the hills and moors. My photo taken through the train window doesn’t do justice to it. It was great to get out on this beautiful day in an area I was not at all familiar with and I think I will try more of these walks in future.
When I arrived in Bergün after the hike down from Preda along the Erlebnisweg [Historic Railway Trail] I was delighted to find such a lovely old traditional village with so many houses typical of the region. These picturesque Engadine houses are lavishly decorated with sgraffito, frescoes and oriel windows and there’s an 800 year old Romanesque church and a Roman tower all amazingly unchanged.
An example of the sgrafitto or trompe l’oeil window
According to the Information Board just outside the village the railway has been a curse and a blessing for Bergün. Back in the nineteenth century the village did a brisk trade in accommodating overnight guests/tourists who were in transit by coach but after the opening of the railway in 1903 it was no longer necessary for horses to be rested and watered here.
Preda and Bergün are both popular for sledging in winter although quite where this is carried out is a mystery to me.
Finally, I arrived at the station where the Railway Museum is located in a converted station building. Despite all the ads for it that seemed to be appealing to children I found it a very adult museum but maybe I wasn’t viewing it from low enough down. For all that, this probably made it more interesting to me. Or would have, had I not been reading all the information boards along the footpath. A lot of the stuff was a bit repeated from them.
After the obligatory shop and cafe you enter the museum itself. The first room is filled with screens showing film of the Simla Railway. Like the Albula Line it is also protected by UNESCO World Heritage status. Built at the end of the 19th century it improved access from New Delhi to the cool summer British residence of Simla. Two Swiss artists made the films travelling on the railway itself. There is no hectic rush as the train and its passengers chug their way up from Kalka to Simla. There is no apparent Health and Safety Advice either by the looks of it. The films are actually very therapeutic and show a relaxed mode of travelling.
The next room is filled with Mr Bernhard Tarnutzer’s train set. Mr T is passionate about the Albula railway to such an extent that he is building his own miniature version (0m guage/Scale 1:45). He began building it at home but is so large now that it has been transferred to the Museum and has a ‘hall’ of its own. He was there on Friday demonstrating its operation to a few of us. The buildings, viaducts and tunnels have been recreated as they were in the 1950s and 1960s with every detail as near as dammit to real life. I’m not so sure however that it’s so interesting to children as it’s mounted at about a metre from the floor. There is still quite a bit of work outstanding until it’s finished.
Mr Tarnutzer explains some technical points
Upstairs there’s lots of interesting stuff and artefacts connected with the building of the line, its history and operation and the resorts that it serves. There were a few hats for children (and me) to try on but otherwise a rather dark area and somewhat adult commentaries when you press the buttons for explanation.
A fascinating day in spectacular surroundings. Most enjoyable.