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John Ruskin and Footpaths

November 25, 2014

In 1885 John Ruskin wrote a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette:Wray Castle and Brantwood 021

“Sir, Will you kindly help me to direct general attention to the mischief now continually done by new landowners in the closing of our mountain footpaths? Of all the small, mean, and wicked things a landlord can do, shutting his footpath is the nastiest…”

PM’s piecrust promise

November 23, 2014

Originally posted on CampaignerKate:

Last Sunday I did a live interview on BBC Wiltshire’s programme Wild About Wiltshire. Before turning to me they played a recording of David Cameron on the BBC’s Countryfile in 2012.   

He said: Here we are in West Oxfordshire, my constituency, one of the most beautiful parts of our country, set in some of England’s finest countryside.  I would no more put that at risk than I would put at risk my own family.

I wonder how safe his family feels now?  Certainly our countryside is not safe.  What about the road-widening and ‘improvements’ proposed through our national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, the potash mine in the North York Moors, the threat of fracking, the development on the nightingale sanctuary at Lodge Hill, Medway?  I could go on, but I’m sure it’s not necessary.

North York Moors

North York Moors National Park

He went on: I care deeply about our…

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Walking to Robin Hood’s Grave

November 18, 2014

It was one of those fine autumn mornings after rain, with the cloud inversion clinging all morning in the deep valley between the Cumbrian village of Orton and the Howgill Fells.

Orton Church (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Orton Church (c) John Bainbridge 2014

The ground was very wet underfoot but it was a grand day for a country walk of several miles.

We left Orton early, passing the ancient pillory, where wrongdoers or perhaps just the

Orton Pillory (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Orton Pillory (c) John Bainbridge 2014

unfortunate poor would have been subjected to punishment and humiliation, and the even older parish church, taking the footpath that eventually leads to Crosby Ravensworth, crossing a number of old stiles in stone-walled fields.

Old Stile at Orton (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Old Stile at Orton (c) John Bainbridge 2014

After a long ascent we reached an old lime-kiln and then the edge of Orton Scar.

At this point the old track becomes more defined, wider and you can see the wheel ruts of carts, which perhaps carried the refined lime down to Crosby.

You follow this track through some splendid

Autumn Day at Orton (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Autumn Day at Orton (c) John Bainbridge 2014

heather moorland, keeping in the hollow and ignoring cross tracks until you reach the pile of stones that is Robin Hood’s Grave.

It almost certainly isn’t, but it is a very dramatic setting.

If you read the best historical work on the outlaw, by J. C. Holt, you will discover that Robin Hood, or more often RobinHood as one word, became a generic term for many an outlaw.

We were now on Wainwright’s coast to coast path, as we made our way across the moorland of Orton Scar to ascend Beacon Hill. When Wainwright first designed the walk, he took this route, but was deterred by a landowner who insisted that there was no right of way. Even today the C to C goes down an inferior path towards Orton.

Fortunately, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) restored the access and it is perhaps time that England’s most popular long-distance trail took the original route.

Beacon Hill, surmounted by a cross celebrating Queen Victoria’s 1887 Jubilee is a fine view point, offering wide views over old Westmorland.

Robin Hood's Grave (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Robin Hood’s Grave (c) John Bainbridge 2014

OLd track with wheel-ruts on Orton Scar (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Old track with wheel-ruts on Orton Scar (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Look out too for the great stretches of limestone pavement nearby.

Jubilee Monument on Beacon Hill (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Jubilee Monument on Beacon Hill (c) John Bainbridge 2014

We descended by a bridlepath to Scar Side Farm and then wondered down the quiet Street Lane and back to Orton, just as the cloud inversion was beginning to dispel.

On Beacon Hill (c) John Bainbridge 2014

On Beacon Hill (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Our green spaces are under threat

November 12, 2014






The Open Spaces Society,(1) Britain’s oldest national conservation body, fears that publicly-owned green spaces are under threat.  In the autumn issue of its magazine, Open Space(2), the society’s general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, expresses concern that the Infrastructure Bill could lead to the loss of open spaces.

Says Kate: ‘The Infrastructure Bill, currently in parliament, enables government agencies to transfer surplus land to developers.  Ministers have resisted our amendments to exempt commons, open spaces and public paths.  However they have, fortunately, agreed to promote an amendment at third reading in the House of Lords to safeguard the public forest estate.

‘While we are delighted that the public forest estate is excluded from the bill, we consider that similar exemptions should be applied to our important assets such as commons, open spaces and paths.  If this bill becomes law it would only be a small step to enabling local authorities to dispose of their land with no regard for the public’s rights and customs.’

The society has already highlighted Hampshire County Council’s recent practice of placing notices on its land which will prevent people from claiming the land as town or village green.(3)

Says Kate: ‘It might be different if we could be certain that all the land will be safely owned by a benevolent council for ever.  But authority-owned land all over the country is being flogged off for development.

‘We are urging local authorities voluntarily to dedicate land as town or village green, to secure the rights of local people to enjoy it for recreation and to protect it from development.’

Land can be registered as a town or village green if local people can prove that they have used it for ‘lawful sports and pastimes’ (ie informal recreation) for at least 20 years without having permission or being stopped.  The registration authority is the county or unitary council.  New provisions in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 enable landowners to post notices on their land stating that they do not accept that rights exist there.  Local people then have only a year in which to submit an application for registration of the land as a green.



CONTACT:     Kate Ashbrook

Kate Ashbrook

General Secretary

The Open Spaces Society

25a Bell Street

Henley-on-Thames RG9 2BA



The Open Spaces Society is a registered charity (no 1144840) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 7846516).


Help us save your open spaces





Read my blog at

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Preview attachment Open Space autumn 2014.pdf

On Holme Fell

November 8, 2014

A very autumnal day as we set out from the Glen Mary car park near Coniston to climb Holme Fell – one of those Coniston heights that had been omitted from my expeditions to higher peaks.

Yew Tree Farm (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Yew Tree Farm (c) John Bainbridge 2014

The cloud level was just a couple of hundred feet above its summit and the mightier tops of the Old Man and Wetherlam were quite invisible.

We took the path from Yew Tree Farm – that iconic Lakeland farm house, as featured in the Miss Potter film – up to Uskdale Gap.

Distant Coniston Water from Holme Fell (c) John Bainbridge 2014

Distant Coniston Water from Holme Fell (c) John Bainbridge 2014

After all the rain we’ve had in England most of the paths were becks, the water tumbling down over the stones, our boots seeking paths up watercourses.

This is a very wooded walk for much of its journey, the trees broken only by some huge boulders, tumbled down from the higher ground over the centuries.

Up through the gap, in sight now of tarn-like reservoirs, built for the quarries nearby.

Up then past Ivy Crag to the rocky summit of Holme Fell itself.

Despite the hazy day, we got a view along the entire length of Coniston Water. I can’t think of another top around here that offers such a generous vista of the lake. We could

On the summit of Holme Fell. (c) John Bainbridge 2014

On the summit of Holme Fell. (c) John Bainbridge 2014

even make out the steam of the old Victorian steamboat Gondola, sailing a course around the head of the lake.

We returned much the same way, though diverting to take on Yew Tree Tarn, built by the Victorian owner of the Monk Coniston estate to improve his fishing.

Yew Tree Tarn. (John Bainbridge 2014

Yew Tree Tarn. (John Bainbridge 2014

A really lovely, though wet underfoot, autumn walk.

Where is Natural England?

November 3, 2014


Another matter of concern…

Originally posted on CampaignerKate:

A prime job in the national parks’ world, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, is about to be vacant. Jim Dixon, who has held the post with distinction since 2003, has decided to move on.  The park has established the process for appointing his replacement but I have seen no mention of the involvement of Natural England (NE), the government’s adviser on national parks.  Why not?

When I was a member of the Countryside Agency (CA) board from 1999-2006, I wanted to be useful.  It wasn’t easy, but I look back with special satisfaction on the contribution I believe I made to national parks.  The Countryside Agency had important functions in relation to national parks, and its successor, NE, has inherited them.

During my time on the CA board we designated two national parks (the New Forest and South Downs) and advised ministers on…

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A Lake District Mystery by M.K. Graff

November 2, 2014

I was very pleased to feature on M.K. Graff’s mystery writing blog today.

If you like crime mysteries set in the Lake District can I recommend the author’s latest novel “The Scarlet Wench”.

Click on the link to see more and order a copy.

THE SCARLET WENCH: A Nora Tierney Mystery (The Nora Tierney Mysteries Book 3)

THE SCARLET WENCH: A Nora Tierney Mystery (The Nora Tierney Mysteries Book 3)

Buy from Amazon

It is really great to find an American author who has taken England as a setting and has written with such affection for our landscapes.

In the third Nora Tierney Mystery set in England, American writer Nora awaits the arrival of a traveling theatre troupe who will stage Noel Coward’s play “Blithe Spirit” at Ramsey Lodge in the Lake District. With her son six months old, Nora must juggle parenting with helping her illustrator and friend Simon Ramsey run the lodge.

She’s also hoping to further her relationship with the only lodge guest not in the cast: Detective Inspector Declan Barnes, ostensibly there for a hiking trip. When a series of pranks and accidents escalate to murder during a flood that traps everyone, Nora realizes her child is in jeopardy and determines to help Declan unmask a killer.

Although contemporary in time period, the book is written in traditional English mystery style with a cast of characters and room layouts. Chapter epigrams are all lines from the play and the play’s plot influences the action. Coward’s estate has requested a copy of the book for their archives.
A mixture of amateur sleuth and police procedural, Graff won an award for Best British Cozy with the book that introduces Nora, THE BLUE VIRGIN.

British author Rebecca Tope says: “THE SCARLET WENCH has all the ingredients of a good read: atmospheric setting, intriguing characters, complex plot and excellent writing.”

Author P. M. Terrell has this to say about the book: “M. K. Graff does its again with another compelling and intriguing Nora Tierney classic. As always, the characters are multi faced the plot twists are unpredictable and the backdrop of Ramsey Lodge in Bowness-on-Windermere will make you want to hop a plane for the UK locale. THE SCARLET WENCH is another winner!”

Susan Sloate, bestselling author, says: “A lively cast of characters, an intriguing mystery and a heroine you have to love … M. K. Graff does it agin with a new novel you can’t put down!”

And editor RJ Minnick compares the series to Agatha Christie, adding: “The beauty of Graff’s work has close ties to that of Christie’s books. It is all about relationships …There are the small vanities and large egos and bitter conflicts that must find their way into any book that deals with human conflict. It is the humanity that makes the books of both these authors work.”


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