“ Address: Carnforth / Lancashire / England „
~~*~~*~~ Warton Crag ~~*~~*~~
Me and the Pig (the most exuberant chocolate lab that ever lived) discovered Warton Crag just under a year ago. I say discovered; not in the Captain Cook way - I asked where I could let Pig roam free where there was no cattle and have a good walk into the bargain and the Crag was the first place recommended to me. I'd only just moved to the area and as anyone who owns a dog knows, trying to find a dog-friendly walk can be a bit of a nightmare. Living in Carnforth, Lancashire means we're right on the edge of the Lakes so there are plenty of walks to be had but I'm a lazy cow and I needed to find one on the doorstep - there's the canal which is very nice but there are always cyclists and ruddy horses that have a habit of ploughing you down and then glaring at you; there's also the beach which too is lovely but Pig likes swimming and not only is the current strong around Morecambe, there's the quicksand to boot. In addition, being a rural area, farmers for some unknown reason like to put stock on their land and although Pig can be relatively trusted with livestock, some farmers like to shoot first and ask questions later (fair enough when a rabid beast is worrying your sheep, but recently a staffy was killed for being off lead in a field next to stock) - I'm not prepared to put Pig on a lead just in case someone's trigger happy, so we wanted somewhere she could be as free as a big fat bird.
Just as aside, I'm not a real walker like Greenierexyboy so don't expect a 50 mile trek with a couple of mountains thrown in, I just like a nice walk that gets the heart pumping (not too much though).
~~ Where is it? ~~
Just as the name describes, it's in Warton - right next door to Carnforth: about 7 mins from the latter to the former if I rag the 206 as fast as I can. The grid reference is SD 493 728, Landranger 97, Explorer OL7 (I've no idea what these numbers mean but I guess they're helpful), but more importantly here's how to get there in the car (you could walk but that'd be ridiculous): Go to Carnforth (there's a lovely motorway that'll take you there, I believe it's the M6) and drive straight through it (it's not that exciting so don't worry you're not missing out on anything). Carnforth done, keep driving through Millhead (it's quite picturesque but blink and its gone) and onto Warton - the roads then become clogged with parked cars and old people that like to cross between them, so be on guard. There are then a few choices available to you:
At the George Washington Pub, take a left up a steep hill. Immediately on your right there is a car park where you may park your car (a novel idea but one that seems to have caught on) or drive about a mile further up the road and there's a second larger car park (you see? The idea was quickly replicated). This is the larger Warton Crag Quarry car park and has a height barrier so no dirty tramps can set up home in their trailers there.
Or, you can drive past the aforementioned pub and about a mile down that road on the left is Coach Road; drive carefully up this as it's narrow and full of hidden corners where more old people lurk, usually with walking sticks and bobble hats. Whilst paying attention to these eejits on the road, you'll probably miss the layby so keep an eye out - it's on the left just as the houses seem to peter out - it's got picnic tables though lord knows who for since Carnforth and the surrounding villages experience rain on a daily basis (I love living here - I'd never had a day off work til I moved to this godforsaken area and although I've only been here nearly a year, I've had flu four times, pleurisy and, though it's probably not related, developed IBS - I blame it all squarely on the weather). There are other ways to get to the crag which involve buses, helicopters and/or donkeys but to list it all would bore the pants off everyone.
~~ What is it? ~~
Due to the fact that the crag is located on the southern edge of the Arnside/Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty it is quite pretty. Since the definition of the word crag is a 'steep rugged mass of rock projecting upwards or outwards' one can expect a wee bit of a climb to get to the top. However, the joy of Warton Crag is that you can pick a steep climb or a more genteel meandering up the rugged mass of rock thus making it either a test of your lung capacity or a test of your patience when your mother keeps repeating "Are we near the top yet?" - she has begun the long and tiresome journey into OAPism, god bless her. The reason that Warton Crag is so special is because it's so beautiful. Plain and simple: beautiful. It's a myriad of landscapes that include low limestone hills and pavements, flat planes full of Jurassic style ferns, and the usual covered forest pathways. It's difficult to describe such a place that one minute has you wondering which way is up as you traverse through fallen trees and bracken, and then the next you're on the edge of the scree slope fearing for your little Piggle's life as she's no concept of danger. That's right - Warton Crag has danger and excitement around every corner.
~~ Too much danger for kids and OAPs? ~~
Not really. There are little bits that just need a bit of extra caution but I doubt anyone's ever died. Apparently people have been known to get lost in the woods but for my money they're blatantly pillocks - the crag is a hill that basically has a path that goes around the base of it - thus, should you find yourself a little bemused by your location, just head DOWN until you get to a path, follow path left or right and it'll take you past one of the many exits. It's not hard unless you're a simpleton. So that's one danger avoided courtesy of moi. Next: I mentioned a steep climb from the quarry car park side - there aren't any guardrails or escalators and nobody's been up to remove the naturally occurring trip hazards - Accident Direct will be getting a call should I stumble over the pig. Avoiding this aspect can be done in a number of ways; look where you're going and don't witter on to your mother about the wonders of the piglet as this can distract you from the dangerous drops on your route, you could also try walking around the steep hills and finding a safer journey past the rock face (it's not that bad, there's just a few bits that mother would find hard to get down/up due to her agedness). This brings me onto the fact that when it's been raining the paths and rocks get very slippy which is quite amusing when pig's trying to negotiate her four fat hooves over the terrain but not so funny when I fall on my lard arse. Moving swiftly on.
~~ What on earth shall I wear? ~~
Apparently flip-flops are frowned upon by the walking fraternity as are bikinis and, fortunately, sandals with white socks pulled up to your knees which meant that my parents both had to perform a quick change in the boot of the Volvo. Due to the fact that this area of the world sees more rain than Noah during the downpour, the crag is usually squishy - if you go up it from the Crag Foot or Coach Road end and it's monsoon season then you're likely to get fairly bogged down; the dog will become encrusted in the gunk and will start to collect twigs and small animals within her coat which ultimately you'll take home and upset HimIndoors. On your head be it. However, from the Crag Road car parks, it is a lot easier to avoid the really muddy areas though you'll still end up mucky. What I'm getting at is; wear boots. Trainers are only of benefit to the weirdoes who run (yes, I used that bizarre word, run) through the crag ignoring the beauty and delight that is my favourite walk. That's the foot department sorted. What you wear on the rest of your body is up to you - I usually end up shedding layers as its bloody freezing as we set off, however, there's very little wind usually and me and the Pig are somewhat out of shape so we feel the exertion more and sweat like, well like pigs. I would definitely recommend a cagoule of some variety (mummy got me a lovely Sprayway jacket which is fantastic - warms up as I do, is completely waterproof (not even the Lancashire rain has penetrated through yet) and lets the air in through clever vents so I'm not a sweaty git when I get back) preferably black as it makes you look slimmer and more like a real walker. I also value my woolly hat as it keeps my ears warm, however, it does mess up my hair (not something I'm particularly concerned about as pig couldn't care less what I looked like as long as I have biccy wiccies).
~~ What shall I pack in my lovely rucksack? ~~
Definitely a question poised by my mother whether it's a trip to the beach or to the Trafford Centre and a very important subject matter it is too. Now, Warton Crag is not exactly Everest: it only stands 163m tall so oxygen tanks and sherpas are slightly unnecessary though if you've got room, pack them just in case. Undoubtedly, it'll rain so even if there's not a cloud in the sky, it'd be wise to pop a lovely cagoule in. Due to the outstanding views from the top, take a camera - one day you'll want to relive the momentous occasion and show your grandchildren the evidence that in your heyday you had the ability to climb mountains. Pack a picnic, or at the very least, a mars bar - once you reach the summit, there's a lovely spot facing Morcambe Bay where you can perch on the rocks, dangle your legs over the edge and wonder at the marvel that is the lovely North West of England. Obviously you should take a drink and one for your pig too - there's no running streams up the crag so unless you want her supping out of puddles, I suggest you take enough water for the both of you.
~~ Walkies ~~
The walks are so numbered and varied that I'd be here all day listing the opportunities. Somedays I'll let the Pig guide me: I just take the path nearest to the one she's sniffing too. Other times we'll head up from coach road along the path and either cut through the dry-stone wall or further on to the stile and then up to the top. I feel safe enough in there not to worry bout getting lost or mugged (though there is a poor Orange reception unless you're on the top). Little bits to look out for are the wooden replica beacon (on the site of the original 13th century one), the triangulation point and the remains of a chimney from a 19th century pumping house. There's many different animals to keep an eye out for - apparently there are cows plonked in there to graze occasionally (never seen one but seen a sign); wild boars (never seen one but heard a rumour), deer (never seen one but heard one), butterflies (not exactly exciting but there's supposed to be many High Brown Fritillaries - only to be seen in July/August and only when it's warm, sunny and still (that'd be never, then), birdies (an abundance of warblers and raptors nesting in the quarry side (never seen any but actually wouldn't know if I had even if it bit pig's bum)). There's also lots of flora but I know even less about plants than I do about birds if that's possible.
Though in writing this I may have jinxed the crag and encouraged a load more muppets to explore it, I love it so much that I had to write just a little something about it. It's a brilliant place for the dog to explore, and it's pretty quiet in there so there aren't that many people for pig to upset (though once I was wittering away to the pig about what a clever girl she was when we suddenly bumped into a group of ramblers eating their dinner (pig helped herself to their butties whilst I walked briskly away with a bright red face)).
Thanks for reading.
Review will most definitely appear elsewhere.
Caroline & Doughnut
Both wishing there were more hours in the day (and that it rained less).
The reserve is home to an outstanding collection of butterflies as well as some plants that are nationally uncommon and the best display of lichens on rocks in Lancashire.