Penrith Winter Droving Festival
An evening stroll up the spongy moss-damp valley, snail-like, my home on my back.
Across the beck loosing the fence-stuck young Herdwick, up miners zig zags to long-deserted delph – unforthcoming trial.
Past diverting ditch drawing the water away from the workings, on up, a breached dam and cut hushed the soils off the slopes below, in hope of exposing the ruddy ore they found over the hill, the next valley, alas not here.
Past ancient enclosures, ghosts of Elizabethan, perhaps Tudor, shepherds, whistle dogs and gather the flocks to guard against the hungry night.
Here a shepherd slept? Wrapped in sheepskins and bedded on heather in the lee of the hill.
Curiously constructed perched cairns float above the ground, small rocks,
round arrangements, mysterious monuments grown from the clatter of stone scattered amongst the stone bields and heather.
An orange sky on the northern horizon frames the barrow-like bulk of the summit,
night beckons but light lingers on, as the moon looms up lazily over peak and precipice.
Press on to find shelter, wind rising, cresting the rounded ridge, nestle down in low ancient enclosure.
Night finally falls, transforming rocks into moonlit ridges. Memory stirs and mind wanders to the hands of forgotten waller hefting the pink granite rocks of this roundel on high moor.
A gathering, winds whisk clouds up, wraith-like tendrils whisper, grasp at the moor but fade into moon-grey darkness. An intrusion in the night, heartbeat drumbeat echoes in the ear, drifts up from the valley below then dwindles to the distance.
Morning, a change has come, the sky has fallen – in the clouds.
In the gloom still watched over by the ghostly guardians,
who are watched.
Notes: A walk up the aptly named Mosedale, Gale Fell and Starling Dodd. Old mine workings and trials are numerous in the fells, here the prospectors in the 1860’s – likely a Mr Faithful Cookson and John Hosking -were trying to locate a continuation of the rich iron ore bearing seams and lodes found on the Ennerdale side of these fells at Kelton Fell and Knockmurton worked from about 1853. However none of these trails developed into true mines and were abandoned by 1873. What is unusual hereabouts is to find traces of hushing, where the water is dammed and diverted to erode the topsoil to expose the rock and, hopefully, the rich seams, the gullies formed by this method are visible in the second photograph. The numerous small stone structures on the moor here have not been formally recorded to date and most likely relate to post medieval upland grazing activities although one or two have similarities to the smaller Bronze Age ring cairns found elsewhere in the Cumbrian Fells and beyond.