A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Wonderful Walker

The Duddon Valley. One of the most entrancing, remote and unspoilt valleys in Lakeland. There's a narrow road running through it paralleling the river, and two hamlets: Ulpha with its small post office/shop and Seathwaite (not to be confused with the other Seathwaite in Borrowdale) with its 16th century Newfield Inn, the floor laid with banded, beautifully marked Walna Scar slate. And that's about it. Oh, apart from woods, waterfalls, rapids, gorges, packhorse routes, fells large and small, and peace and quiet. There are brown trout in the river, Herdwick sheep on the hillside and buzzards soaring above the trees. Evidence of early industry remains visible if you know where to look: slate quarry workings on the slopes, and "pitsteads" which were woodland clearances made by charcoal burners. The shapely pyramid of Harter Fell rises up near the head of the vale, and Cockley Beck at its very top links the lonely passes of Wrynose and Hardknott. This was Wordsworth's favourite valley. It inspired his River Duddon Sonnets (1820) and The Excursion (1814) which was partly about an 18th century parson, the Rev. Robert Walker, known as "Wonderful Walker", an educated man revered by the locals. He was both intellectual and practical, and famous for sitting on his own special "shearing stone" as he clipped sheep with great skill once a year at a nearby farm. This stone now lies at the entrance to the church porch in Seathwaite (see photo). My 2 and a half hour walk, on an overcast but warm Friday 10 August, took me from Seathwaite up the bridleway of Park Head Road, an old packhorse route, towards the Dunnerdale Fells. After a few miles I turned down Kiln Bank before crossing the Duddon on some stepping stones. The valley road brought me to Hall Bridge from where I followed a track to the foot of Wallowbarrow Crag and then through woodland and across 2 footbridges back to the village. And the pub. I think it would be good to come back here and slowly soak it all in - I noted there was camping at Turner Hall Farm.


Anonymous said...

I have found a tiny booklet entitled WONDERFUL WALKER by Harold Edgar Young printed privately in 1927. It describes Young's walk around that area where he stumbled on Seathwaite, the home of Wonderful Walker. It includes a few photos that he must have taken at the time. He was obviously inspired by the story of the man's life and the beauty of that part of England.

I am not sure what to do with the booklet, but it might mean the world to somebody. It was given to me great grandfather by the author.

Bob said...

I also have a copy of this booklet. I don't know how it came into my family but I'd like more information. It is a wonderful read!

Bob said...

I too have a copy of this booklet which has been in the family for some time. It is a wonderful read.
I don't know what to do with it either.

Julian said...

Dear Anon, Bob
Your book sounds very interesting and one that I have not come across. We are descended from Wonderful Walker and have his original will amongst other things. It too makes an amazing read.
I would be very interested in either borrowing or purchasing your copy of this publication. the Duddon Valley history society would also be interested.
Pease let me know if you would proceed with a sale.
Julian Ritchie

Bob Chase said...

Julian please make contact on rhachase@gmail.com

Bob Chase said...

Julian., Please see attached. Pls contact me on rhachase@gmail.com

Bob Chase said...

Still waiting for contact to discuss wonderful walker. Call 01420 587280

Rosemary Webster said...

Julian, did you ever get a copy of Wonderful Walker? I have one, signed by Harold Young who wrote it, addressed to William Branagan who worked for Harold Young in his Liverpool bookshop. Rosemary Webster

Cygnetuk said...

Hi Rosemary, I wonder if you could tell me something about the contents of the book. Back in 1960, as an eight year old I had my first holiday in the Duddon staying at Nook Cottage in Hall Dunnerdale behind where the garage was.

In a small bookcase inside the cottage was a history of the area, if I remember correctly it was a well worn booklet. It mentioned that the last person to be killed by a wolf in England was a girl called Dolly who was fleeing from the animal when she fell into the river in one of the deep pools which became known as Dollys Dub.

I have long wanted to find a copy of the booklet but do not know its title or anything about it other than the description of the incident that I have just mentioned, could it be possible that it is in the book you have ? I would love to know !!