The Snake Pass in ice and snow

20 Jan

It drops well below zero on Wednesday night but man and dog are well wrapped in down bag and heavy duvet. (For my winter vanning set-up, see A rubber tramp in Redcar.) As I drift off I embrace my inner child and fall to listing placenames with rude words embedded: Penistone … Scunthorpe 1  … Cockermouth …

(When I first saw that last, on a signpost in Keswick, August 1963, my ten year old self thought cunnilingus an Irish airline – or would have, had the term been in my vocabulary – and cocks not the kind of item you’d want anywhere near your mouth.)

And then there’s Clithero, where Tebay and I now find ourselves, having left Sheffield around 12:30 to take the Snake Pass to Glossop …

… stopping here and there at places of boyhood and youth for a snap. Doctor’s Gate, for instance …

… before making a longer stop on the snow covered layby at the summit of the pass, head of the snake you might say – me to put boots on while Tebay prefers to go barefoot and in truth doesn’t much care for the coat I insist he wears – for an easier stroll than those Doctor’s Gate opens up.

Good views down to the north-west, over Glossop.

But today we’ll give the path down to its once Satanic mills – now grit-blasted from soot black to stylish tan, and repurposed for coffee shop and mall – a swerve, and stay on the tops.

Onwards and upwards.

Then back to the van to resume our leisurely crawl to Lancaster. We’re through Glossop and on the M60 – Manchester’s M25 – before rush hour but night has fallen long before Clithero. I have a dilemma. My park4night app shows a great spot on the B6478, seven miles northwest of the town in the middle of nowhere on the route through the spectacularly scenic Forest of Bowland. But I’ve got cold feet, and I don’t speak physiologically. Do I really want to risk this road, akin to the Snake but narrower and more remote, in the dark?

I do not. After leisurely pint of Thwaites Original in the Buck Inn, I find a street where the wall of a Lidl, long and dimly lit, faces terraced housing. Parked on the store side, Tebay and I pass an uneventful night before waking to thick ice on every one of the Berlingo’s eight windows. After coffee in town – I prefer indies but Nero’s is nearby and dog friendly – I scrape and de-ice, then point the van at the B6478.

Within minutes it’s clear I made the right call last night. Even this layby, where I stop for a snap just outside Waddington, has my wheels spinning without traction as I try to get back on the road. Glad to be facing uphill, I freewheel backwards into the highway on low revs, then resume the climb.

At the top Tebay and I once again find a layby, and take a walk on Bradford Fell.

After an hour and a half we’re back at the van and both up for another walk. At the foot of this pass lies the village of Newton in Bowland, on the Hodder. A quick bite, then we follow the river through snow dusted but grazed meadow down to a footbridge, then back into Newton – no shops, and pub closed – a walk of three or four miles.

In Lancaster we have a bed for the night with my very good friends Sue and Tom. Sue’s place being on the canal bank, a Friday morning stroll along the tow path is de rigeur.

Then it’s time to go. I’ve stuff to do before leaving for a family do in Derby on Saturday, and don’t want to be taking the Snake after dark, do I?

* * *

  1. For a good joke about Scunthorpe – nothing to do with embedded c-word – see Wear the fox hat!

10 Replies to “The Snake Pass in ice and snow

    • Sorry to hear of your double blow, Helen. Nothing but time can alleviate the sorrow of bereavement – and a stroke on top of that seems too unkind for words.

  1. Strongly recommend the Coffee Exchange in Clitheroe should you pass through again. Thanks very much for sharing. The Forest of Bowland is among my favourite places and these are beautiful pictures, taken in stunning conditions I would not dare walk through.

    • Thank you Inga. For kind words and Coffee Exchange tip. Is it dog friendly? I couldn’t tell from the website.

      • Sorry. We had left the dog at home and I didn’t notice. Switching to pubs, Holmes Mill is definitely dog friendly and she loves the underfloor heating! (Very thin skinned, our lovely Mary. It’s the greyhound in her.)

  2. Ha ha ha, the placenames were quite something !
    Great photos, as usual !
    And it’s de rigueur, non mais dis-donc… 🙂

  3. Thanks so much, Phil for these crystal-clear (literally!) pix. Real spirit-lifters in these very grisly times. And glad to see you’re sensibly taking breaks from the very tough research-chores you set yourself to keep us so well-informed. As ever, much appreciated. X

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