6 March 2005
Leader - Heather Jemson

The hamlet of Masongill lies on the border between Lancashire and North Yorkshire about 1km north of the A65. It is also only a few fields away from Cumbria. About 170m above sea level it looks south towards the Bowland fells. The name is thought to be either Anglian or Viking, a 'meson' being a Tom Tit and gill the stream which runs from the top of the fell through the east side of the hamlet.

We met in Masongill for the second of the year's walks. On a bright sunny afternoon there were small patches of snow lying in some of the hollows and by stone walls, untouched by the low sunshine. The visibility was excellent making identification of local features very easy. Having left Masongill Cottage we walked north along the tarmac lane, through a farm gate and along an old trackway, supposed by some people to be part of the ancient route to Kingsdale and Dent. After about 300m we turned left to go west through a field with several intriguing features. There are small grass-covered mounds which could be the rubble remains of buildings and there are long low straight hollow ways which could be boundaries marking off small enclosures. This area could possibly be the site of the original settlement of Masongill.

Just off to the left of this field we climbed a small hill where we saw the remains of Cobbler's Cottage. From this viewpoint we could look out 360o. Southwards was the great mass of Bowland and south-west the Lune valley. The tall buildings of Lancaster and Morecambe Bay showed up well. Over to the west and north-west were the high peaks of the Lake District and to the north the highest point in Lancashire - Gragareth at 686m. Eastwards Kingsdale and Ingleborough completed the panorama.

Rejoining the track we continued to Ireby passing Stirragap which was obviously at one time a ford across the beck. We were now in Lancashire and on the fringes of Ireby Fell, common land, unenclosed and grazed by animals belonging to Ireby farmers. We walked past Over Hall where ancient courts were held in the Justice Room, and then followed the track by the beck into Ireby. This hamlet is old enough to be mentioned in Domesday as a taxable village which implies some prosperity. The stream running through Ireby is called Cant Beck. It flows south and eventually joins the Lune at Cantsfield. The dwellings, almost all of which are old, run either side of Cant Beck and some have steps leading down from their gardens to the beck which suggests it was their water supply. There are three bridges (one modern), the oldest one being a clapper bridge.

At the southern end of Ireby we turned east towards Masongill and crossed several fields and once in Masongill we walked round the houses noting the several ages and styles of building as well as the names of the houses. Paw Bank Farm named after the small hill behind it and Lodge Farm are both old buildings and still working farms. The farm called The View is the oldest in Masongill thought to be built about 1700. Illiwell Lane Barn, The Coach House and The Barn are examples of farm buildings being converted into modern housing. Hatter's Cottage recently renovated and Cobbler's Cottage (in ruins) are examples of occupations carried on in Masongill but the main source of income would have been agriculture.

Masongill House, built around 1750, was the home of the Waller family who owned the whole estate until the mid-1930's including Masongill Lodge and Masongill Cottage. Masongill Hall, despite its grand title has always been the farm house for the estate rather than the main dwelling and lies a little way from the main area of the hamlet.

We finished our walk at a leisurely pace, having had an easy stroll on a beautiful winter's afternoon.