The annual perambulation round one of the Rings was led this year by new boss of the Rings, Neil. It was a cool start at Shap with a drying easterly breeze giving excellent walking conditions enlivened by a smidgen of sunshine later in the afternoon. The underfoot conditions were muddy to muddier at times but what else can be expected at this time of year?!


An excellent turnout of 14 was boosted by no less than five lady visitors all coming individually from as far away as Wigan and Garstang. This meant that the gender ratio was nearly 2:1 in favour of the fairer sex, a scenario to be welcomed especially as it was inconceivable just a few short years ago.


Group Sec, Tony, acting as roving observer dipped in-and-out on several occasions with short out and backs as he assessed the route finding capabilities and fitness of all concerned. Neither factors were a problem as all finished the 24+ miles in around 9 hours in good order and without unwanted diversions.


The discerning traveller can take much from this low level journey through a large area of rural Westmorland. Leaving Shap to climb and cross over the busy M6 is always a releasing moment as thanks are given to be off the rat race for a little while. Rural hamlets such as Hardendale abound and there is plenty for those who like farm country and sheep – or even quarry scenery!


Several peaceful Westmerian villages are visited or skirted and after the first at Reagill a descent is made to join and enjoy the charming River Lyvennet for a couple of miles. Morland and Cliburn with their interesting churches follow after which there is a linking passage of quiet road walking at the northern end of the Ring passing through Great Strickland with its pub checkpoint. There are two brief glimpses of the retiring River Leith – one of the triad of eponymous rivers visited on the Ring. The railway and motorway soon reappear and are re-crossed at Hackthorpe before entering Lowther Park with its wide open spaces, deer herd (if lucky) and emerging vistas of Eastern Lakeland.


The Lowther valley is now centre stage and is seen at its best below High Knipe, the final checkpoint, before dropping down to follow our third river back to Shap via Bampton Grange and Rosgill. Here there is an option is to eschew the direct way back, continuing above the river Lowther to enjoy a close up of the magnificent ruins of the Premonstratensian Shap Abbey built in 1199 followed by a possible visit to the 16th century Keld Chapel thought to have been the Chantry for the Abbey. Thence a short return to Shap via the Goggleby stone.


Truly a walk to suit the connoisseur.