Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cathedral Quarry and Hodge Close

14th October 2011

Keith and I invited our good friend Bob Shepherd to come to the Lakes. We decided he needed a break from his seven day job of running his business. He must have been ready for it as he agreed!!

What celebrations at Pete and Dave Butty Caravan when their turnover went up by a third. Only joking as the bacon was crisp and delicious as usual. It was actually very busy with truck drivers and a few walkers and it had taken the lads by surprise.

The Best Sight

They were falling over themselves as one cooked the food and the other buttered the teacakes and brewed up. Being in the first lay by on the A590 Kendal Road conversation is always being interrupted by the roar of trucks as they go past. It usually goes a bit like this.

"What do you" Whooooooshe !!!!! "Lads?"

"What" Whooooshe !!!!!

" Three Ba..." Whooooshe!!!!! "Tea" Whooooooshe!!!!! "Cris" Whoooooshe!!!!! "py" Whooooshe !!!!!!!!! " con"

The lads must lip read for fun as they never get it wrong. Bob was smitten and Pete and Dave have another convert. We may introduce him to Spam next time but we need to break him in gently first with crispy bacon.

We decided without telling Bob that we would take him to Cathedral Cavern and Hodge Close Quarry near Little Langdale as both are pretty spectacular. We just said we would do a circular walk from the village.

The weather was dull and overcast but warm and after days of rain it was thankfully dry. We managed to get what we thought was the last parking place on the roadside: NY319032  just below the Three Shires Inn and got into our walking gear. I proudly pulled out the Satmap GPS and set it to measure the walk. I pointed at the blue circle that appeared on the screen showing exactly where we were on the 25,000 scale OS map. Amazing technology that tells you how far you have walked, how much elevation and depression, how long it took, and how fast you walk. That is if you press the Start button when you set off.!!! Idiot 1 Technology 0 I think the score was when we got back.

Little Langdale

We knew the route anyway so it wasn't a problem but we decided to go the back way into Cathedral so walked a few metres up the road and at NY318033 we turned left and took the path to Stang End NY318028, a lovely hamlet with a look of Switzerland.

Stang End Switzerland
We then followed the path marked to Little Langdale to where it joins the main path to High Tilberthwaite at NY315028. From the back of Cathedral Quarry NY 313028 there is an old mine tunnel that goes alway through the fell and exits just off the path we were on. This was what we wanted to take Bob through and enter the back of Cathedral. The only thing was the tunnel does not appear on the map and though Keith and I had been through it before it had been from Cathedral not this way. It proved a little difficult to find. Bob realised we were looking for something but we didn't want to tell him what.

" Do you two know where you are going?" He asked

" Course we do. Anyway my Grandad was Apache so I navigate by the wind and sun." I replied.

I dont think he was fooled and we wandered around until eventually we ended up in Moss Rig Quarry NY313023. It was interesting but not where we should be but the old buildings were worth a look. As we were leaving a huge owl flew out of the ruined building we had just left. How we didn't see it in the roofless shell none of us could explain.

Leaving Moss Rig Quarry
We climbed the steep track and reached what seemed another main track at NY311025. Keith then said he and I had been here before. He was right and we were definitely in the wrong place from where we should have been. Bob was simply enjoying the walk guided by two navigators who simply gave the impression they knew where he was being taken.

" Lets go over the top and go to the proper entrance of Cathedral." 

Said Keith in a voice that Bob would think it was an pre-intended part of the walk. I just agreed in the same type of voice and off we set. At least we did know where we were going now and soon we were at the true entrance to Cathedral Quarry. NY313023. It is an amazing place. First you enter a mined tunnel little knowing the dramatic scene that awaits. 

Cathedral Quarry Cavern

The tunnel leads into a huge cavern lit by a massive hole in the upper wall. The roof is supported by a pillar of slate left there by the miners to do just the job it was designed to do. It is easy to imagine the noise of explosives in this confined space as the slate vein was blasted from the mountain. I should imagine too that the miners of the time had little in health and safety so ear defenders would not be used. They would probably have been deaf in their later years.

" Amazing!!" was all that Bob said, but it is so impressive that words do fail a little.

As Keith and I had been before we looked at it differently now as the surprise value was something we had already experienced. We noticed that the cavern followed the vein of good slate plunging South to North at an angle of about 45 degrees, and quarrying had stopped as the vein was worked sideways to the different type of slate that formed the East and West walls of the cavern. We had entered from the North through the tunnel and the South end had an exit tunnel that terminated in an open quarry with vertical walls and no obvious exit path. We entered this quarry and scrambled up a bit of a climb to an upper level. Here was the hole that illuminated the cavern and we could look down to the pillar of slate. At the South end of the quarry there is a hole in the ground with a chain across part of it. We climbed into the hole and a tunnel appeared leading into the mountain. Head torches on now, Keith had secretly brought one for Bob and we entered the tunnel. About thirty metres the tunnel forks and the left hand fork MUST be taken. The right hand fork disappears to who knows where while the left hand we took eventually leads to a point where in the distance a spec of daylight appears. It is advisable to place your hand on your head in these low tunnels so you feel the roof with your hand and not your skull. The spec got bigger and bigger until we exited into the daylight of Moss Rig Wood.


It looked blindingly obvious now how we had missed this tunnel exit an hour or so before. We had mistakenly thought it was further up the High Tilberthwaite path and we had walked straight past the little stile that we could see down the little path in front of us.

"What about your Apache grandad?" Asked Bob

"He met John Wayne." I replied.

We retraced our route back to Stang End and took the path marked Hodge Close. It was a good track and we were soon at Hodge Close. NY317018. Again we didn't say anything to Bob as we wanted to surprise him once more. We led him around the back of the cottages and into the disused wooded Parrock quarry. This is the approach into Hodge Close workings.

Parrock Quarry
In the bottom of this quarry was a huge boulder of new slate that had obviously fallen from the upper walls. It would have been a nasty experience to have been there when it fell as looking up there was a trail of new slate boulders lying on the older rocks.

Keith and Bob add scale to the fallen boulder

I climbed up the rock fall to see where the rocks had fallen from and it was quite obvious that a huge tongue of slate had fallen off. Quarries seem at first to be stable places but one has to remember that they were blasted from the fells and the cracks and shock damage actually create dangerous loose sections. All it needs then is frost, ice, water and vegetation to prise these sections from the rock face and send them crashing down. Explorers beware.

Me standing on new slate from above.  Photo Keith Butterworth
Further on into the quarry there is still evidence of the long gone quarrymen. A huge wire rope still dangles from above hundreds of feet long. Between tree roots and ferns lie abandoned railway lines twisted and half buried by past rock falls, and metal structures that must have been part of some machine the type of which is now unknown. Suddenly a dramatic scene opens in front as we entered the workings of Hodge Close Quarry.

Hodge Close Quarry Workings
Just like Cathedral the quarrymen left a huge pillar of slate to support the roof but in this case it is open to the elements on the approach quarry and through both holes on the Hodge Close side.

Looking at the same pillar from above Hodge Close

I think the second photo puts the whole thing into scale. The walls of the quarry are around 50metres high while the lake in the bottom is about 50metres deep. One beloved of climbers and the other beloved of divers. Below the water are further tunnels that extend into the quarry walls. Once of course this was all empty and looking at the left hand side of the pillar there is some ruined iron work. This once formed a vertical lift that was used to bring slate from the quarry bottom to the very top. The holes at the pillar must have been an intermediate loading and unloading point.

The remains of the vertical lift.   Photo Keith Butterworth
We sat on the ruins of the lift to have lunch. It was deathly quiet except for the sound of water falling from the roof of the cavern away to our left. A robin cheekily hopped around picking up the bits of bread we threw for it. At one point it perched on a ledge and started singing and the melody amplified by the cavern soon had other robins in the trees above the quarry sang in reply. We felt a little reluctant to leave our dining table as it felt so relaxing in what obviously was once a very unrelaxed place.

We climbed back out of Parrock Quarry and walked to the upper edge of Hodge Close. It really is impressive and the lack of fencing makes it feel rather airy when you look over the edge. I did start to wonder when Keith kept asking me to stand further back when I was already in a precarious place for him to take a photo!!!!!

Keith and Bob after telling me to step back!!!!
He had been admiring my boots and top and Bob my Satmap so I did wonder  at his photo directing.

Back a bit Lads !!!!!

We carried on walking down the track towards Coniston until we reached NY309011 where we turned right through a stile and followed the path over the fields to High Tilberthwaite Farm NY308018.

High Tilberthwaite
From here we took the rough track that leads over to Atkinson Coppice NY308013. The farmland soon turns into rough fell as the path climbs. We had to negotiate a slight problem of a huge Highland Cow sitting in the middle of the path. Bob and I had the brainwave of asking Keith to put on a red jacket and take a photo of it.

Bob and I make our escape.     Photo Keith Butterworth
The autumn colours were just starting to show on the fells. It needs a few more weeks before they are fully rich and golden. Keith's late father reckoned the first weekend in November and he was probably right with this. Keith and I are both photographers as was Keith's father and we missed it last year after promising ourselves all summer we would come to the lakes for the autumn photo shoot. Maybe we will make it this year.

Once over the top the path drops into the Little Langdale valley and usually the view of the Langdales are magnificent. It as a bit cloudy on the tops today and the view was muted.

Looking into Little Langdale Tarn near Atkinson Coppice
Keith and I as usual spurned the easy way back which would have been to reach the point where our path intersected the main path from Low Hall Garth Climbing Hut NY309028 and walk back past it to the Little Langdale Village. This would have meant turning right at the intersection so we turned left. We decided to go via Bridge End Cottage NY301029.

Bridge End Cottage
Then reach the main road which leads to the Wrynose Pass but go right then left up the road to the Langdale Valley. At NY300034 we turned right over the stile onto the lower reaches of Lingmoor Fell.
It would have been easier walking along the road back to Little Langdale but not half as much fun. Its a well defined path and the views are really good though today the low cloud tended to restrict them.

Looking over to Wetherlam and Wet Side Edge
We were on coasting mode now and the banter was good as we walked through the Autumn ferns now burnt sienna contrasting against the verdant green of the fell grass. As usual there was a little sting in the tail and this came just above High Bield NY312036 where the path takes a steep climb up to under Bield Crag NY313038. The leg muscles started to rebel a little at this point.

Keith on the climb
Bob on the same climb
Once over the uphill bit it was an easy walk to Dale End Farm NY316037 where we joined the road and strolled back to the car resisting all temptation to stop at the Three Shires Inn for a pint. As Keith puts it quite rightly. " It's not going in for one, it's staying for the next ten thats the problem."

A great day out

Technical Bit

No comments:

Post a Comment