West Of Eden, 13th February 2022

Led by Louise

A gloomy forecast for Sunday loomed ominously for most of the preceding week and certainly lived up to expectations! Seven group members met at Sunbiggin Tarn in persistent rain. The route headed north-west to the hamlet of Sunbiggin via boggy paths and continued across fields to Knott Lane, where a stone circle could be seen in an adjacent field. The lane led upill to the exposed limestone country of Great Asby Scar. After a blustery elevated section, the route passed through the nature reserve and SSSI, which features fine limestone pavements and on a better day, would be worthy of further investigation. A brief and soggy coffee stop was followed by a descent into the village of Great Asby.

A bus shelter, erected to commemorate the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 afforded some protection from the elements, where the group shared this space with a small second-hand book sale and residents’ Sunday papers awaiting collection. At this point, given the poor weather conditions, a brief conflab resulted in the decision to cut the route short.

The original plan had been to head east, passing beneath the Settle-Carlisle railway, to reach Bleatarn and later, Soulby, before following the Scandale Beck from Soulby down to Smardale Mill. From there, the route would have turned east to village of Crosby Garrett, recrossing the Settle-Carlisle Railway, before taking lanes and field paths (with a steep up and down ‘sting in the tail’) to Little Asby and back along the road to Sunbiggin Tarn. This route would have covered c. 18 miles.

In reality, however, the group left the bus shelter in Great Asby and turned south, taking muddy field paths along to Whygill Head. An equally brief lunch stop took place standing beside a moss-covered wall at the farm entrance, with minimal protection from nearby trees. As this was not a time to savour lunch, take in views and engage in convivial chat, we were soon on our way again. There followed a two-mile road section, passing the hamlet of Little Asby, which eventually led downhill back to the cars at Sunbiggin Tarn. The sight of the tarn ahead and waiting cars was welcome to all concerned!

A silver lining from today, is that the second half of the route can be incorporated in a future group walk, in this interesting, and often overlooked, part of the county.