Back in the day, for a brief period, my old Dad worked at Rolls Royce in Barnoldswick where they made Important Bits for Blue Streak - Britain’s answer to the Soviets – a rocket intended for the delivery of huge amounts of death and destruction just a bit East of Berlin. These rockets were built and then tested to destruction at Spadeadam, an RAF station sited in England’s bleakest and emptiest quarter – a huge patch of low, brown tussocky, boggy stuff quite near the Cumbria/Northumberland border. The landscape is not relieved at all by the huge and regimented Wark Forest, Kielder forest’s twin.
However, the landscape is relieved quite a bit by it’s best possession – a craggy, half-quarried tor of hard rock called Muckle Samuel’s Crags.
Muckle Samuel’s crags holds the opportunity for the rock scrambler to have a few minutes of excitement getting to the top (although there is an easier way round the back). Muckle Samuel also has what appears at first sight to be a small sheepfold and a couple of walled shelters, one of which is neatly hidden under and beside a bilberry-dressed pinnacle and, according to That Interweb, has an extra underground room access via a small hole in the floor. I wish I’d known this on Friday when I visited. I did notice the hole in the floor, but thought it too tight and mucky to warrant squeezing inside. The place is cosy and big enough for 2 or 3 close friends and an ideal spot for a lunch out of a Northerly nither.
The interior of the main howff or shelter is decorated only by some graffiti, apparently dating back to 1966
Also, according to That Interweb, the place was the site of a mediaeval steading of some kind. It certainly has a good view to the North of the flat and tussock-infested sloppylands.
The purpose of my visit, though was to bag something, almost anything, and the nearby Tump Coomb Rigg was my target. This was achevied with some difficulty over a vast plain of knee-high and closely-packed and hugely vicious tussocks of the kind that steal your boots and fill them with smelly black water. Happily, the return journey was made much easier by following tracks made by off-road bikers and an outward journey of knee-threatening half an hour was completed coming back in about ten minutes. I was originally intending to go to the Lakes where I had three or four targets to do but then I remembered that the Bank Holiday was starting and the place would be heaving. A traffic report of the jams around the M6/A66 at Penrith in the afternoon confirmed that I’d made a reasonable decision.
The walk started at Churnsike Lodge, an ex-keeper’s place, now holiday cottages I believe, on the forest edge at the end of an 8 mile single-track road with a dearth of passing places and very soft verges – enlived somewhat by the array of targets (aircraft, buildings, dummy tanks etc) , used by Spadeadam’s Electronic Warfare customers. Also enlivening the journey were the cattle on the road who were reluctant to move, a nice sheepdog pup at a farm on the way and the meeting of the heating gas wagon on the brow of a hill. He reversed half a mile up hills and around tight corners to the next cattle-grid. Impressive skills. I had nowhere to go, really.
Me and LTD did 9 miles and only 800 feet of ascent. And a lot of forest roads. We saw nobody else. For seekers of solitude, therefore, it’s an ideal spot for an easy walk, or, even a very long walk, maybe to Bewcastle - and, I should expect, would be delightful if it happened that the sky was full of larks and pipits and such, and, perhaps the odd attacking Eurofighter. It’s not the kind of place where you’d want a rogue knee to sieze-up though.
I wondered whether or not any debris or bits of me Dad’s handiwork remained anywhere nearby.