Early morning rain had cleared in good time and as a “lucky seven” gathered in Hallbankgate the sun was beginning to break through. By mid-morning the clouds had gone and we enjoyed sunshine throughout the day. Before setting off though, a visit to Hallbankgate Hub community shop boosted the day’s rations and, just as important, the hub’s profit.

Heading South-East up Crossgates road we turned sharp right at the top to pass the terrace of houses then it was along to “The Park” where a stile on the left indicated the path over to the Clesketts railway line, one of many of Lord Carlisle’s tracks so essential for the mining activities of yesteryear. At Forest Head our route used the modern path created by the RSPB through the old quarry, with lime kilns and derelict buildings still in evidence but with nature re-asserting its grip with every passing year.  Turning left once the fellside path was reached, we were soon at Howgill and then following the RSPB’s “woodland trail” we headed for the RSPB centre at Stagsike. The woodland is some ten years old now; the mix of native broad-leaf species providing cover, and food, for birds and other wildlife.  Stagsike itself gave cover to humans as coffee was much appreciated, along with a very interesting art display.

Suitably refreshed it was now along the trail to Tindale, one-time home to Stevenson’s Rocket, then East along another former railway, but now a sustrans route to Halton Lea Gate. The gorse in full bloom provided a yellow glow across large areas on both sides. Crossing the A689 our route now took us North to Clover hill then East again to join the Pennine Way where the north-bound path took us to a welcome lunch break at High House, now a ruin but it must have been impressive in its heyday. Crossing the foot bridge over Hartley burn we stay with the Pennine way before striking out West above Foxhole cleugh and holding that direction for a good five kilometres. The trail, boggy in places, was clear enough but little used these days. Above Follysyke cottages we turn North. Forrest-felling makes for hard going in places, with swamp replacing bog in a few spots! However, we’re on the final anti-clockwise circle now via Cleugh head and a short stretch of tarmac before regaining the southerly path via Carnetley and Moss hill into Hallbankgate, where cakes were waiting and the kettle did not take long to boil.

The statistics: 7 walkers, Nearly 7 hours, 17 miles, 600 metres ascent, much tea and cake and a bit of sogginess (not in the cake!)