Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:



West Vale

Clay House


Cragg Vale



Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong





Marlborough Sounds


Milford Sound



Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches


A City Of Revolution:




Notre Dame


Towards The Final Frontier

We are coming into step with the fatal necessity, faltering at death’s door. I have expected to die each day I have lived. We have been overshadowed by mortality from the start. On every new thing there lies already the shadow of annihilation. We know a man may carry his own pyre. An event in the sequence of life. Make way for death so we can thrive. You can summon death but in our demise search out optimum living as death beyond calculation.

Far away in the silent land the end of the world is coming as we enter the last days. As the trumpet sounds hear the last coda whilst the passing settles into us. Your mortality wrapped up, secure, passed and parcelled away as eternity beckons. Time to turn wholly towards death, we lay in wait for your made to measure trunk bound forever to the earth. In sickness and in health slip towards a coma. Despatched first class to the afterlife queuing in the ante chamber to heaven where you can unveil the likeness of death.

In the final ruin perfectly coiffured, shaven, brushed, embalmed and sterile for the morrow. Our last stage distinct as we enter a state of non-existence becoming null and void. Our being captured and held only in genes transmitted as our descendants in the ties linking generations. We are indebted to the Greek philosophers for the revelation that “so long as they speak your name, you shall never die”.

Your sense of self grounded in the kin who survive. For the Metis natives each deed dispersed for seven lifetimes. Death a jolly good idea as part of the joie de vivre. Untroubled by reaching the last page as you peek beyond mere extinction.

In the coming of the end of time an old man’s fancy turns to immortality setting his face against the finale. Mary Shelley resurrected Frankenstein, and so can we. Many die in the quest for the Holy Grail. Who will share our eternity? Will we witness those we have shunned and offended? Here they are! Those you have lost, living in your heart huddled together for warmth. Adam and Eve paid the price of knowledge as they deserted the Garden of Eden leaving a promissory note but loaded down with an ordained death sentence. God bequeathed our nagging doubt of immortality.

We may keep the faith soul searching for a re-awakening. We may have had our stretch but let the Lord take us and start us off afresh. Raising the dead to live in paradise as we carry our own distinctive aura.

We know in the last testament that those who sleep in the dust of the earth may be redeemed. Not merely giving sustenance to the lowliest creatures in the abiding cycle of nature. Alongside Freud we discover “a way of beginning to become inorganic”.

Proceed through the iron gate and follow the clear path to Birks. Cross the field and enter woodland through a gate in the wall. Keep to the path on the left above the river.

After 200 metres take the signed footpath to the right between the walled trench. Leave the woods by a gate stile and continue on the outside boundary of trees. Sedbergh is now below on the right. You can hear the echo of favoured banter monitored by the Howgills.

Across the field pass through the wall gap and carry on beyond wooden gate with rugby union pitch on the right. The rusty, ferrous river on the left. Straight on heading for another gate in the dip. Up the path passing the house on your right. Enter the road through a wooden gate. Turn left along the road between cottages at Birks.

Ignore signs for path going off to the right. Carry on the road downhill and round Birks Mill. Branch left and down to a narrow path parallel with the river. Skittle past the pungent stench of sewage works on your right.

Continue through a canopy of hazel, hawthorn, sycamore and ash. Carry on through the field keeping the gushing River Rawthey to your left. Through a wooden gate and follow path to a kissing gate by the confluence of the Dee and Rawthey.

Cross the pasture where the sheep friendly and unconcerned by your intrusion. Through the gate and climb steps up the embankment and over the line at the former Ingleton- Tebay branch railway. Down the steps and along the path returning to side of river. Turn round to admire the old iron rail bridge now silenced and decaying. A stretch of river becalmed in awe. Through a wooden gate and carry on the path adjacent to the river passing farmhouses on your right.

Pass through another gate, up steps and on to a wooden footbridge. Keep to footpath all the way along and through a kissing gate to the road. Is this Briggflats where George Fox came preaching Quakerism in 1652 following his vision on Pendle Hill?

Turn left along for 600 metres to signposted path on the right to High Oaks. You will have passed Ingmire Caravan Park with its impressive stone lodge. Sign easily missed as concealed in hedge. Here we come across fellow travellers tramping for leisure and pleasure.

Our walk seen in its infancy as we witness everything in a different light. Walking in atonement for some imaginary offence. In your solitude repetitive deeds become contemplative and meditative acts. Being active every day makes it easier to listen to the inner ear reverberating in our homemade void. Memories flit across the mind as walking deals out a new kind of order. Each sidewalk opening ways to avenues of new experiences relishing removal of boundaries. Finding new life as the old ones melt away. We never walked out on life. As long as I walk I must live, striving to save a life.

Along the way tucked under hedges there’s a life united with matching trees shielding our destiny. Stay a while motionless breathing in their blessing; Thoreau thought nothing of walking eight miles to hug a tree.

In our slow movement delight in the momentum. Making haste slowly like Augustus keeping vigil in our conscious self. We were born to tramp traipsing our land in a call to arms. Minded to be dangerous binding us to our territory through the accumulation of knowing. In our intrinsic fellowship with the land our footprints cannot be washed away.

Through the gate keeping to the fence on your right. Cross bridge over Haverah Beck. After the gate stile go left and across to corner of field. Beyond next gate proceed left as directed by yellow arrow along the green lane. Through two gates to reach the hamlet of High Oaks.

Bear right round a house datestoned 1790. Continue on right between houses as directed by footpath sign to Lincoln’s Inn Bridge. Follow hedgerowed track uphill. After a few hundred metres you come to a swing gate by footpath sign pointing to the right on to Luneside farm. Follow direction sign to Luneside ignoring step stile on your right.

Beyond two metal field gates enter an enclosed hedgerow lane on to Luneside Farm. Proceed by gate into farmyard. Through another metal gate by the footpath post directing you towards Lincoln’s Inn Bridge. Bear left past the large ash tree keeping alongside field boundary.

After about 200 metres cross the fence stile on your left. Down on your left leading to the River Lune, a captivating haven for oyster catchers.

Keep alongside river but take upper path at times to avoid the quagmire. River Lune ripples along flowing in opposite direction to the Dee. Over the stile at end of Lincoln’s Inn Bridge in sight of bronzed domes at Howgills.

Turn right and after 30 metres left along track signposted Low Branthwaite. Through a double gate over a stile keeping to track by riverside. Proceed over fence stile, ladder stile and right after 25 metres. Left over Crossdale Beck Bridge following yellow arrow to the bridge.

Above is Lune viaduct of redundant and magnificent architecture. It has cradled no locomotives for nearly 50 years. A delightful icon of engineering as navvies laboured fast and hard.

Underneath the arches and climb path up the meadow. In corner of field over stile and follow track along field boundary. River is down below on the right.

Over two ladder stiles and carry on past a small stretch of wall and as directed by Way signs. After the gate enter the walled path. Go left towards the tree with a painted sign pointing you to a wall stile. Bramaskew Farm is on the right. Ahead to ladder stile continuing almost parallel to overhead power lines down to a small barn in hollow. After walled section walk along through two gates and over culverted stream. Through another gate and along enclosed track leading to a farm.

Just before farm buildings turn left through broken wall stile. Turn right up the field to footpath signs and left signposted to Hole House. Keep to side of field on the right.

After a metal field gate proceed up field diagonally. Climbing the grassy knoll navigating tons of discarded cowpat and alert Friesians. Descend to Hole House farm. Enter the gate and down to farmhouse passing between cottages to a gate. Down the path left over a stile into riverside pasture. Keep to riverbank for about one mile. Furtively weaving another throng of edgy bovine. Why should we worry? They are no threat to anyone.

It is a treat to set down by the river and hear its whispering murmur. We are allowed to wonder alongside Spartacus that “we have been in former days young and valiant and brave”. In your lethal diagnosis dwells the sovereign cure for hypochondria. We share with Lucian the patent remedy for the evils of old age. In certainty of avoiding the skeletal interventions we adapt the role of the moribund.

Differences in disability free life expectancy exceeds 17 years between us and those at the summit. Our Yorkshire folk 20% more likely to die before their span. Up North decimated at the rate of a major city every decade. Groucho Marx recognised anyone can get old, all you have to do is live long enough”.

Walking in mourning with memories intact bewitched and entranced in easy mutuality with the scenery to explore. Day dreaming for a living, absent mindedly winging it in the midst of my imagination. We walk each day or else feel lame. Keeping spring in our step each day there’s a page discovering in words and deeds a new sense. Now we have Wordsworth in our legs. Exposure to the paths reveal their essence to you. Icebound your desire never to age could be eye witness to glimpses of fleeting inertia. As further layers peeled away disintegration strengthens our resolve. We can draw on a fresh release of energy to galvanise the frame. They may scoop up remains along the Way. We bow to the incurables infatuated with invasive iatrogenic interventions.

This river has centuries still to run in solitude and loneliness. We can fade amongst the crowd and hear their communion in delicious privacy.

Our ultra-walk proceeds beyond exhaustion stretching every sinew. Each element queuing for shrieking in revolt. A form of tortured certainty with nothing more to contribute. Pain the barbed route to an adrenalin focused vitality in the constant addiction to shovelling away the depressive chill. You may find nirvana in your hardships. In that debility the fragments of our discontent dissolve.

Along a footbridge crossing the tributary and continue alongside the river with its waterlogged mire. The pinched path squeezed into the precipitous bank. A robust boardwalk constructed hastily to replace the plummeting path. You should not be walking this section by yourself. Swaying without due care and attention. Legs tremble and crumple without firmness of foot. Sweat trickles down your spine, clammy but not chilled. Keeping body warm you’ve got half a chance. We know with Alfred, Lord Tennyson “we are not now that strength which in old days moved heaven and earth, we may be made weaker in time and fate but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find and will not yield”.

You remain by side of river through stiles and footbridge. After two gates the track moves away from the river and up to a field gate. Carry on to the wall and ahead as directed by Dales Way arrow. Over the stile and on to the road. Go left to Crook of Lune Bridge, an old packhorse bridge.

The Lune bounding for Morecambe Bay. Over the bridge swing left and follow the road up to Lowgill viaduct bearing the defunct Ingleton Tebay line. Beyond the viaduct turn right at the T junction. We shied away from a gaggle of ramblers arriving in convoy off the motorway. Parked up and readied for their route march along the Way. In line all togged out meticulously. Identical in their different shades of mufti, for me too bourgeois. They never followed me.

After 40 metres turn left towards Beckfoot. At chapel cottage go left following the public footpath sign. Proceed up the enclosed grassy path. Over the stile keeping the hedge to your left. Carry straight on as directed by yellow direction arrow. Slow going in the soggy sludge in a blend of mud and cowpat. Here much wayward loitering as passage not clear cut.

As you proceed between two hawthorns direction arrows point you over the hill to the far corner of the pasture. There is no discernable path. At the corner two fences meet. Lakethwaite Farm. You may now listen to the constant drone of the M6 on your right.

We know what it is like to be a pilgrim. The earliest pilgrims searching the meaning of life as they seek personal contact with God. Their journey a form of insurance for immortal soul. We made the pilgrimage to the shadow of St David’s. Staying in the Glendower with double, single and futon. One more expedition and the Pope says it trumps the trek to Rome. Along with Jean–Jacques Rousseau we are the solitary walker. In our reverie we become self-taught and dabbled in many fields. Alone in the world we detect the tug of war between solitude and society. Have we ever been truly suited for civil society? We become an unsociable misanthropist deafened by tumult of the world.

As we stroll we scribble to prolong memories of past and present reviving and magnifying the space of my existence. We will make our accommodations in the days of reckoning. Worn down by the sheer weights of going on breathing. As endorphins exhausted before the death rattle make your peace with the divine. You could make it a social moment sipping glassfuls of finest malt. You could be allowed a melancholy smile rather than anguished distress. Succumbing to the slumber sleeping forty winks and beyond. When was it ever simple to kneed your eyes and rouse yourself from our sleep walk?

You can catch the evolving dead end. There is no turning back. It is the life we have chosen for ourselves. There’s no fantasy of getting out of life alive. You have no choice, you cannot live in the past. A natural death copied from a natural birth. Better to leave in these elevations that lodge in the depths.

You may need more exotic pursuits place learning as we go. Stumbling for the final symbolic tread a more benign mission. As gentleman of the track we may have lost monasteries by the sideways for spiritual and bodily succour. Like John Bunyan our first avowed intent labouring night and day to be a pilgrim. We remain valiant in reaching our peak. We fear no evil as we are not alone. Scattering your effects no longer weighed down by tiresome piety.

Through the fence gate and left up to a farm on the tarmac track -- terra firma a real joy. Just before the buildings turn right over a stile. Follow direction arrow round the farm. Care to be taken as you may lose yourself. At the stile go right as directed by yellow arrow along the track to meet the lane. Turn left and after 150 metres the Dales Way is signposted on the right over the wall stile. Keep to wall boundary to wooden gate. Go ahead and over M6 access bridge. After the bridge immediately left to pass Lambrigg Head Farm. Through the gate and on to a metalled lane for 200 metres.

Turn right by the footpath post over footbridge and through a swing gate. Keep left to next gate weaving through slim, long legged foals in matching colours.

Follow path across the meadow and over fence stile. Through another gate on to Holme Park Farm. Past the farm climb the step stile following path by fence on the right. Over a wall stile and right to a gate marked with Dales Way arrows. Ahead the Lakeland hills beckoning dark and foreboding clouded in mist and shadows.

Continue over two wall stiles with rail line below on the right. Down to swing gate and along the enclosed path leading to side of Moresdale Hall. Through a field gate and carry on past expensive barn conversions.