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Date & start time: Saturday 11th July 2009. 12.15 pm start.

Location of Start : Friars Well Cattle Grid, Cold Fell Road, near Egremont, Cumbria. ( NY 055 101 )

Places visited : Cold Fell, Side End, Thornholme Farm bridges, River Calder, Monks Bridge and back to Friar's Well.

Walk details : 3.5 mls, 850 ft, 3 hrs including lunch and a swim.

Highest point : Cold Fell 952 ft ( 293 m )

Walked with : Ann and the dogs, Harry and Bethan.

Weather : Sunny and blue skies gradually clouding over towards the end.

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 Cold Fell and Matty Benn's Bridge

Map created by EveryTrail


David Hall's Site was the inspiration for one . . . as we chose a short walk on a busy day and end up searching for a bridge.

It's surprising what you find tucked around the back of these little moorland hills.

The Cold Fell Road links Lamplugh and Calder Bridge on the west coast and bypasses the towns and villages by climbing over the outlying fells.

Cold Fell itself is just one of the 'bumps' along the way but it does feature in the Outlying Fells book, not that that was the reason we were climbing it today.

The panorama photo above is looking back (north) along the mountain road as we start the short climb to the top.

The white splodge on the right hand side are the small marquees and a car park for a Hound Trailing event being held locally today.

More of that later.

The forecast was for a fine day, clouding over to rain by the end, but so far the weather was excellent.

Here Harry looks through the gap on the fell wall to the distant summits of Caw, Haycock, Seatallan and the headwaters of Worm Gill.

To the west, signs of the old industry of the area . . . iron mining.

The ironstone found locally spawned Cumbria's industrial revolution and the steelworks and shipbuilding of Barrow (now famous for building submarines).

The area was served by many local branch line and mineral railways, which were the inspiration to Rev. W. V. Awdry for his Thomas the Tank Engine books.

The old and the new . . .

Just a little further round, the Sellafield Nuclear Processing Plant, now marketing itself as part of the Cumbria Energy coast, not that this plant produces much power. It is however, one possible site on which to build one of the planned nuclear power stations needed for this power hungry country of ours.

If that prevents thousands of wind farms being built in this beautiful county, some good will come of it in our opinion.

I digress from fell walking . . .

Oh yes where were we . . . Harry bags the summit . . ." I touched the top first . . . Yeah !"

We pause for a more traditional, celebratory summit picture.

After that hefty climb of at least 250 feet to the top, we walk along it's grassy summit, heading south.

This is Seatallan again with the distant fells of Great End to the left and Scafell and Slightside to the right .

The rounded outline of Lank Rigg with a large Herdwick lamb and her mum posing in the foreground.

Down the southern side of the fell to make the walk into a round trip.

Ahead is the Cumbrian west coast with the Ravenglass estuary in the centre and Black Combe further south.

A wider panorama showing all of the south western fells including Yoadcastle, Stainton Pike, Whitfell and Buck Barrow.

Sitting and enjoying the sunshine, a rather fine Charolais Bull.

Rather than walk directly through Strudda Bank Farm we diverted through a fell gate and walked along Side End,

hoping to find a stile or gate to cross the fence onto the public footpath on the other side.

Unfortunately none was available so we headed directly down to the river once we reached the woods.

Not many people seem to come this way !

I was coping but Ann behind had rather more in the way of navigational problems !

Still . . . she made it through and we were soon down by the river.

By the look of the vegetation, the public footpath down through the woods appeared to be even more blocked than our route down off the fell.

Here the River Calder is joined by Worm Gill and forms a classic junction pool.

There are two bridges here, one over each river, seemingly underused if our path was anything to go by.

The past flood water levels were impressive though, if the grass covered fence laying alongside the path is anything to go by.

In the absence of a good riverside path we decided to follow the bridle way

seen just starting to climb across the bracken covered slope to the right.

This took us up onto the lower slopes of Boat How but doubles back and follows the Calder north on a slightly elevated spur.

Ann is looking down for one last view of Worm Gill and Haycock in the distance.

A good path gradually fades but the way ahead is obvious.

Walking above the river, we spot a pool and possibly a nice place to enjoy lunch.

Yes . . . Harry's enjoying a cooling dip . . .

" Come on in . . . the water's fine !"

Ok then . . .

A pre-lunch dip in the pool was extremely refreshing but Ann declined this time.

This was a great place to relax and have lunch . . . apart from the flies which were a slight problem today.

Afterwards we follow a riverside track, probably a sheep track . . .
. . . and I climb to a vantage point to survey the best route forward.

It wouldn't be so bad but there were a few stinging nettles in with the thick fern cover, so we headed back down, closer to the river.

Local wildlife . . . a Heron looking for his lunch by the river . . .
. . . but disturbed by our passing, he flies off downstream.

A final navigational hazard for Ann.

These must be some of the tallest rush grass we have seen for many a year.

Back onto clear ground again as we reach the bridge at Friars Gill.

Hidden in the trees no more than a hundred yards up stream is a superb old pack horse bridge . . . shown on the map as Monks Bridge.

This is one of the highlights that we had hoped to find when we first planned the walk.

It is a narrow and beautifully formed stone arch bridge

across a narrow part of the river and

just upstream from the new bridge.


It has no parapet, handrail or curb side stones

so there would be no obstructions for a horse or pony

crossing the bridge with large side pannier bags of

wool, farm produce of whatever.


The bridge does what it was designed to do . . . just cross the beck

No new fangled health or safety rules to be seen anywhere . . . yes !

What is the history of the bridge . . .

I quote David Hall on this one.

- - - o o o - - -

"Matty Benn was blind and her husband built the bridge. Matty would sit on the edge of it, often knitting awaiting his return from hunting, regularly with John Peel.

The Monks built up the side of the bridge a little for Matty's comfort with the stone left from the monastery.  It was named Matty Benn's Bridge, her name being Martha but always known as Matty."

- - - o o o - - -

Later Update 2014

David and I have received an email from Geoff Benn

which I have posted below.


Hi Roger, I was recently looking on the internet under Matty Benn's bridge and read with great interest the account of how it came to be so named on David Hall's web page, and subsequently your own.

I contacted David and pointed out that Matty's husband was born a few centuries too late to build the bridge, and John Peel died a couple of years before they got married. I then gave him the account that I had been told in the 1950's. and regularly since.

Please find attached the notes I had made, including an observation about her headstone and a speculation about her activities.

Hope this is of interest to you. Geoff. Benn.        

Many thanks Geoff, certainly is . . . your fuller notes are posted below.  


Matty Benn’s Bridge.

Matty Benn was my Great Grandmother. She was born Martha Smallwood at Egremont in 1831. She married John Benn (1824-1878) in 1856 at Haile church.   They lived and farmed at Brackenthwaite farm at Wilton in the parish of Haile. They had nine children, eight of whom lived to adulthood.

She would regularly go to markets at Egremont and Gosforth, on horseback and sober. She would just as regularly return home, on horseback drunk!  The Gosforth market was held at Boonwood, on the site of the present day Boonwood Garden Centre, and Matty would leave the farm at Wilton, cross Monks bridge, then used bridle ways and pathways to get to Boonwood. On concluding her business arrangements, she would retire to the Boonwood Inn, (now The Red Admiral) get drunk, then onto the horse and back to Wilton, again via Monks bridge.  Because of the way she used the bridge, (ie. on horseback and half the time in a state of inebriation) the locals began to refer to the bridge as Matty Benns bridge, and the name sticks to this day.  She died in 1888 and is interred at Haile church cemetery.

I first visited Matty Benn’s Bridge and Haile church yard in the early 1960’s where I recall seeing Martha Benn’s name inscribed on one of the Benn’s headstones. On visiting both sites in 2009 with relatives on holiday from South Africa, we were unable to make out Martha’s name on any of the Benn’s headstones, although some names are still legible.

I am assuming that she would be selling items of farm produce at the markets but have no idea if she was selling to the public, or supplying a stall holder. She may have done neither, but I would have thought one or the other would be the most likely.
Unfortunately I don’t know any-one who could enlighten me on that point, as my sources of information have all passed away.

Geoff Benn.    

29th April 20014


Well worth a visit on a nice day . . . whatever the story.

Back now to the car, just up the track and we're there.

As I said earlier . . . It's surprising what you find tucked around the back of these little moorland hills.

- - - o o o - - -

I also promised earlier a little more detail on the Trail Hound event we saw.

The participants and spectators had parked on the fell side next to the Cold Fell Road.

This is fox hunting without the fox. . . . cross country dog racing,following a scent trail

One of Cumbria's oldest and popular sports.

Ready for the off . . . participants line up their dogs for the next race as we make our way home.

More details from the Hound Trailing Association web site should you wish.

- - - o o o - - -


Technical note: Pictures taken with with Ann's 75 or my G7 Cannon Digital cameras.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . an objective in mind when planning a walk.

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A previous time up here - 6th Nov 2007 Cold, Flat and Dented

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