Peter Hough

Peter Hough
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Monday, 14 February 2011

Walking with ghosts...

It was a late decision on Saturday afternoon - it just popped into my head - I needed to get out into the countryside and walk.

I also yearned for the company of other walkers while getting my fix. There's little pleasure in sitting in a pub on your own after a walk, pint in hand, talking to yourself. Where would I find them at such short notice? A few minutes on the Internet and I had uncovered the website of the Southport Fell Walking Club. They have members from Crosby to Tarleton. There was a name and a contact number which I dialed. After a short discussion to ascertain that I was experienced, and up to the rigors of fell walking, I was invited to join them the following day for a coach trip up to the Northern Lakes. Perfect.

The weather was wet and blustery as we left Sefton in the dark, and it only seemed to get worse the further north we went. After a coffee stop at a service station on the M6 we arrived at Murgrisdale and began the steep 522 metre climb up to Souther Fell. As often happens, the rain had all but disappeared, although it was blustery on the hill top. Stunning views aside, Souther Fell has quite a spooky reputation.

It began on Misummer Eve in 1735 when a farm worker saw a huge army crossing the hill top, before disappearing in a cleft. Two years later his boss, a farmer called Lancaster, witnessed cavalry and foot soldiers. He and his family watched the tableau until it went dark. Every year after that on Midsummer Eve people turned out to view the spectral sight, but to no avail. It was not until ten years later that the Lancasters, and 26 other people witnessed a vast army of marching soldiers, cavalry and horse drawn carriages stretching half a mile across the summit. The following day they climbed the hill to look for physical proof of the army's passage - but there were no hoof marks or wheel tracks apparent.

There doesn't seem to have been any sightings since then - so perhaps it was just a transient anomaly. Certainly there were no ghosts visible on the damp windswept hill top while we were there - but then perhaps it was the wrong time of the year?

We did find a pub at the end of the walk; the Horse & Farrier Inn at Threlkeld - and very nice the beer was too! I'm sure I'll see more of my new chums - and when my wife comes home, she will probably join us.

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