Monthly Archives: November 2012

Tolkien Country, Crosses, Stoneyhurst and the Hodder.

…..a beautiful day starts with a sharp frost, but bright and sunny again!

To keep this post topical I had been listening to the radio about a new film on release, The Hobbit, which is sure to be a big success after The Lord of the Rings. The premier was in New Zealand where I believe some of the locations were filmed. However it is well known that  J R R Tolkien,the author, spent many days walking around the Hurst Green countryside, whilst his son was studying at Stonyhurst College. The area was said to have given him inspiration for the fantasies of Lord of the Rings.

So after lunch, I don’t know what happens to the mornings!, I set off to drive up to Kemple End on Longridge Fell to take in some of the Tolkien rambles. The road up Longridge Fell had been quite icy and tricky even after noon.

Ground frost

Parked up at Kemple End [SD 688 404] and was rewarded with views across the still misty Ribble Valley towards Pendle and Boulsworth Hill.

Distant Boulsworth Hill

Distant  Boulsworth Hill

Couldn’t resist a look into the quarry where there is some good climbing. A couple of Roe Deer ran off when I descended into their territory. The rock faces were dry as they always seem to be, sheltered from any prevailing weather. This quarry had provided stone for the village of Hurst Green and Stoneyhurst College.

I realised that photography today would be difficult with the low sun. One was either shooting into the sun or having your long shadow cast across the picture.

Birdy Prow Kemple End

Birdy Prow   Kemple End

Walking through the delightful houses, that comprise the small settlement of Kemple End, I picked up a sunken track across the hillside. This was probably some constructed rail or sledge way to transport stone from the quarry down the hill.  Dropping down lanes I came into the grounds of Stoneyhurst College which one is able to traverse on public rights of way. Putting aside thoughts of the privileged classes one cannot but admire the grandeur of the place. Building started in 1523 for the Shireburn family and from 1794 the Jesuits ran it as a college. Today it is a renowned, and no doubt a very expensive, RC boarding school. Girls as well as boys now attend. The college is very proud of some of its past pupils including a certain Arthur Conan Doyle, actor Charles Laughton and Mark Thomson ex director general of the BBC.

Stoneyhurst Chapel

Stoneyhurst Chapel

Stoneyhurst College

Stoneyhurst College

Moving on through the grounds I dropped down through fields to arrive at the Lower Hodder road bridge which is sited next to the ancient, arched, packhorse bridge over the River Hodder. This is better known as Cromwell’s Bridge as it is thought that Cromwell’s parliamentary army crossed it before defeating the King’s men at the Battle of Preston in 1648. Sorry but the picture below is poor….Kemple,Stonyhurst,Hodder 029Now I embarked on the delightful  path leading up river to the Higher Hodder bridge. The river was quite low as we had not had rain for a few days. Because there are few leaves left on the trees it was easier to spot the bird life. Robins, Wrens, Blackbirds, flocks of Blue and Long-tailed Tits, a flash of a Kingfisher, a nod of a Dipper and lots of Herons poising patiently above the cold waters.Kemple,Stonyhurst,Hodder 040

The path passed  first the base of a damaged cross and then an intact relatively modern cross. These must be connected in some way to the college but I’ve been unable to discover their history. Any ideas?

Kemple,Stonyhurst,Hodder 035The path through the woods next to the River Hodder is popular and well maintained with steps and good footbridges over side steams. Whenever I use these Lancashire County Council bridges I have to say a quick ‘hello’ to a deceased, dear, friend who worked in the bridge department of the council. He much preferred the challenge of a humble footbridge project in the countryside to being in his office.

Lancs County Council Footbridge.

Lancs County Council Footbridge. Thanks!

Soon I was approaching Higher Hodder Bridge and the path doubles back and starts to climb in zigzags up the hillside to Kemple End. Pausing for breath gave me chance to survey the scene over the Ribble Valley towards Waddington Fell and Pendle – the changing light from the low sun was magical. This route up from the river is part of my Longridge Skyline Way [from now on LSW] which I mentioned whilst crossing Beacon Fell.

Pendle in Evening Sun from Kemple End

Pendle in Evening Sun from near Kemple End

As there was plenty of light left I crossed over the wall by the road at Kemple End to investigate a nearby cross a couple of hundred yards away in the field. This is the so called  Paulinus Cross dating from the 7th century when St. Paulinus, Bishop of York, was supposed to have preached here on his mission [1619-1633] to convert us heathen Lancastrians  to Christianity. It is a rather strange looking cross!

Paulinus Cross

Paulinus Cross

Quite a long post today, but for a short afternoon walk there was a lot to be included.

Nearby on a lane is another cross dating from 1934 with the haunting inscription – WATCH FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY, NOR THE HOUR.Kemple,Stonyhurst,Hodder 061

I’ll leave you with that thought.

Beacon Fell – Views and Sculptures

Following days of heavy rain, and serious floods in other parts of the country, today was forecast to be sunny, cold and dry. This proved this to be correct.  After a mornings work I was keen to make the best of the afternoon. A quick trip up to ‘Craig Y Longridge’ showed me there was still too much seepage for bouldering so I decided on a short walk on and around Beacon Fell. The tracks up there would at least be better than the sodden fields elsewhere. I can see Beacon Fell from the back of my house and subconsciously check it out for clear weather most days.

Beacon Fell

Today was perfect. In the summer months I have often used a circular walk through fields from home up to Beacon Fell and back. These tracks are a small part of my Longridge Skyline Walk which takes in Beacon Fell, Parlick, Fairsnape-Totridge, Kitcham Hill, Waddington Fell and Longridge Fell, a round of over 60k. More of that another time.

Beacon Fell has been a Country Park since 1970. The good visibility of the fell made it a good location for warning beacons. These have been recorded for nearly a thousand years. Until the beginning of the last century it was rough farmland and then was acquired in 1909 by Fulwood Council as a water supply. Water was collected in Barnsfold Reservoir and from there piped to Fulwood via Horns Dam and Haighton. Conifers were planted to help drainage. After 1959, no longer required for water, it was left unattended until acquired by Lancs County Council and opened as an early Country Park. It seems to have gained in popularity ever since.

At 266 metres (873 ft) above sea level, small compared with the neighbouring fells, its position offers commanding views over the flat plain of The Fylde and  Morecambe Bay to the west, the Bowland Hills to the North as well as the Pendle, Longridge Fell and the Ribble valley to the south-east. On  clear days, as today, the Welsh hills, the Lakeland Fells and the Isle Of Man are visible.

Bowland Visitor Centre

The park is well served with a welcoming visitor centre and cafe, open all year. From these car parks  tracks wander all over the fell and forest. Pick up a leaflet if you are unfamiliar with the area. Today I was keen to climb to the top for the views but decided to seek out along the way a series of sculptures by local artist Thompson Dagnall. The first is just above the centre, Orme Sight, a grotesque face with a drill hole sighting through his eye onto the N. Wales coast.

Orme Sight

As you walk up through the trees you come across the Walking Snake, a remarkable 50ft long, winding, wooden snake which kids love to balance along until they come eye to eye with head!

Walking Snake

Close by is an unusual use of trees uprooted and ‘replanted’ upside down to create the Spruced up Heron. I think this has changed from its original and now gives the impression of the bird part buried in an inverted position. Needs a new name.

Spruced up Heron

Unfortunately the Hanging Bat in trees near the top of the fell has been dismantled because of rotting timbers and won’t reappear. Further  down the fell you may find the scary Black Tiger and Kissing Seat.

Black Tiger Kissing Seat

Anyhow to get back to the top of the fell and the trig point there were a gaggle of people staring out at the very clear views to the west.

Where is it?

As it says ‘on the tin’ there were commanding views in all directions – I don’t think I’ve seen them so clear!  Snow on the Lakeland tops, lots more wind turbines in the Irish Sea, Isle Of Man looking very close and some heights to its left in the distance – must have been Northern Island. Unable with my camera to capture this scene, but no problem with the closer and impressive Bowland Fells of Fairsnape and Parlick, Waddington Fell, Pendle and Longridge Fell.

Pendle and Longridge Fell

I continued my walk around the northern slopes of the fell, on past the pond with lots of ducks and through avenues of spruce back to the Visitor Centre. Interesting displays about Bowland and surroundings took my attention. In particular photos of lime kilns in the Chipping area, the volunteers manning the display were knowledgeable and interesting to talk to. By the time I emerged the sun was going down low over the Welsh hills giving a fittingly beautiful view to end the day. Looking just like a watercolour wash.

[Don’t forget to click photos to enlarge]

The Clwyd Hills.

So a wonderful afternoon – some of the clearest views I’ve seen from here, a sculpture trail and added interest from the Bowland Visitor Centre.     Did I mention you could see Blackpool Tower?

Looks good for tomorrow too ……..


PPS Have a look at my may 2014  post  for more sculptures on Beacon Fell.

Heart of Bowland – Croasdale. Bullstones bouldering.

The forecast was good for today, cold with lots of sun. Letting the ice melt from my car I set off to drive leisurely to Slaidburn with the thought of some bouldering high in Croasdale. Lovely blue skies were overhead as I left Cow Ark and motored over Marl Hill, but  the usual view of Ingleborough never appeared. Always a joy to drop into the picturesque village of Newton.

Newton village

There were some road blockages in Slaidburn so I was forced to start walking further from my destination than I’d intended. Strange that when one is going climbing parking as near as possible to the crag becomes imperative. Within a few minutes of setting off the day seemed to change, the sky darkening with definite rain in the air. Didn’t see that in the forecast!

Walked up the Hornby Road [Salter Fell track] that goes over to Wray eventually. This follows the former Roman Road from Ribchester to Lancaster, so has probably been in use for 2000 years. A few years ago this route was getting heavily eroded by the 4×4 brigade but a change-in-use order closed it to such traffic. Some effective restoration work on the worst stretches has made this through route much more pleasant for walkers or mountain bikers. Trail bikes still have access and can be a noisy intrusion but they are an infrequent incursion. In fact you hardly ever see anybody in higher Croasdale.

Hornby Road and Croasdale Quarry

Hornby Road has had several surfaces added since the Romans were here, and in it’s first mile or so was tarmacked up to Croasdale Quarry. Peregrines nest regularly in this quarry. I’m not sure when this large stone quarry was last used [? stone for the M6] The surface of the road is now showing signs of wear and weathering. The road crosses many streams coming off  the fell and the culverts used are said to be from Roman times with the original capstones buried under more modern material. They all seem to be functioning well which says something about the original build quality.

‘Roman’ culvert

As you proceed up the road there are views down to the right to Croasdale Beck, an alternative track comes this way. A shepherds hut, with remarkable and extensive sheep folds has been restored by United Utilities, who own the land. This can be seen in the valley bottom. A few years ago I bivied in it for a couple of nights with my young grandson. We spent an hour one evening, spellbound, watching a pair of Hen Harriers quartering in lovely gliding motions over the fellside above us. A rare sight nowadays as the species is on the verge of extinction in England. Bowland has been its stronghold but perceived conflict with Grouse breeding [or should that be shooting?] has reduced numbers. Harriers are  ground nesting birds and the wet summer of this year has not been good for them.

Croasdale Bothy and sheep pens.

Carrying on up the now rocky track the boulders I was hoping to play on became visible on the far hillside – marked on the map as Great and Little Bull Stones. The weather was poor by now with a cold wind and drizzle, so hopes of climbing diminished. As I approached the watershed at 416m there was a herd of Belted Galloway cattle grazing on the rough pasture. These rough haired cattle thrive in windswept moorlands and they are said to produce very tasty beef. Their thick hairy coats are more like a Yak’s than a cow.

Belted Galloway cattle

Soon I was taking my familiar path up to the Bullstone boulders. They are a very extensive group of gritstone boulders spread across the hillside for over a kilometre. A few years ago my friends and I had a concentrated attack on these rocks and produced about 300 bouldering problems.    [see   THE BULLSTONES pdf1 ] In places the rock and the routes are of the highest quality but in view of their remoteness, an hours walk, few people visit them. That ensures a wonderful wild quality to a days bouldering here. Today wasn’t going to be one of them – with low damp cloud and a cold wind. Still I enjoyed my walk along the vague path below the rocks of Great Bull Stones with views first west across to Wolfhole Crag and Lunesdale; and then south east down Croasdale to Ribblesdale and Pendle.

Pinnacle and Pendle

The fell lies on the southern slope of White Hill, 544m, one of Bowland’s highest hills. The views from this wild spot include Morecambe Bay, the Lake District and a full in your face Yorkshire Three Peaks. Once this whole area was out of bounds on a private grouse moor but since the 2000 CRoW act anyone has free access to wander – few do. It wasn’t worth the trudge up today.

Traversing the hillside I soon came to another group of boulders, nearby is a unique feature on these fells. A large stone trough has been  hewn out of an in-situ boulder and left abandoned on the fell. It is about 5ft square and must weigh a ton. What value in a garden centre?

Stone Trough.

Walked below the 25ft tall slabby rocks of Little Bull Stones.

Little Bull Stones.

Arriving at the last boulders – the diminutive Calf Stones. There was a little sunshine and I was by now warmed up with the exertion, so it was on with the rock shoes and a few low problems sorted.

‘Phone Barry’ 4c

Satisfied with the day set off down the heathery track to cross the ford in Croasdale Beck [a bit more water than I’d bargained for!] and down the Roman road into Slaidburn, arriving at the car just as it was getting dark.

Croasdale beck

Will be back up here on the first decent day!

For further info and a downloadable guide see –

and recently someone has posted this video, thanks  –

Walking the Calories off??

Had an old [in both senses] friend staying for the weekend, this annual event usually involves lots of beer and curries. To mitigate the effects of the calorie overburden I’d planned a few walks. The weather turned out to be good for November, particularly since he comes up from the South and thinks we live in an icy wilderness.   On the Saturday a short local walk took us via the banks of the Ribble down to Ribchester with it’s Roman relics. The plan was to have a pint and a sandwich at lunchtime in one of the local pubs and catch a bus back later.

River Ribble at Ribchester

Problem One was that the two traditional pubs in the village, The Black Bull and the White Bull, were closed so we wandered along to the Ribchester Arms. We were made very welcome and enjoyed a good beer with hearty sandwiches.

Calorie intake.

The bus timetable suggested a bus at 2.30, we arrived at the bus stop at 2.23 and waited and waited. Problem two was that no bus appeared, except returning in the opposite direction. I am sure that the bus must have arrived early and didn’t stop according to the timetable. This view was re-enforced by a poster at the stop suggesting the number to ring with complaints about the bus service. Probably a regular problem for the locals, obviously no  way to provide a public transport service. We were rescued by a friend driving past!                                                                                               My complaint about the bus service  is being dealt with.

Bus complaints.

Anyhow drawing a veil over the Saturday night’s calorie intake Sunday dawned bright, sunny and dry. We had arranged to meet four good friends at Foulridge in the car park of a restaurant where we would eat in the evening.

All assembled we set off for a walk around  Kelbrook. walking along lanes in the morning was a good opportunity to catch up on recent news and events. Good  light-hearted banter was the order of the day. A constant background firearms noise accompanied us and we realised that all the 4X4 vehicles passing us were on a mission. When we arrived at Kelbook Lodge there was great activity with various shooting activities, fortunately not involving living animals or us. This was the site of some glorified clay pigeon shoot. Watching  the targets it appeared that not many of the participants  were capable of scoring!

Kelbrook Shooting Lodge

Having seen the poor  shooting we kept a wide birth of the target area. Eventually after some trackless walking we arrived at the trig point of  Kelbrook Fell with excellent views over Pendleside, Bowland and Riblesedale.

'Last of the summer wine'

‘Last of the summer wine’

Difficult navigating and diverted paths eventually brought us round the north side of the fell and we picked up the Kelbrook Circular Walk. Dropped into the village of Kelbrook and delighted to find the chippy open with an attached cafe serving a good cup of tea.

From here we made our way over an old railway and drainage ditches to arrive in Salterforth. Our objective was the old pub called the Anchor Inn.

Anchor Inn

The pub is beside the Liverpool -Leeds canal. This is an interesting place.  Parts of the original Inn can still be seen down in the cellars and, having been undisturbed for a couple of centuries, there is now a magnificent array of stalactites and stalagmites in the original cellars.

Anchor Inn cellar.

The walk back along the Leeds – Liverpool canal was quite pleasant.

Canal bridge.

Canal boats

Soon we were back at the Massala Room and changed for an evening meal. This place has a Sunday buffet  which is excellent value and really good quality.

Massala Room

Calorie Buffet

So having had a good days walk we were faced with a serious eating option – probably about 3000 cals! Walking only uses approximately 100 calories per mile so we were well into a positive calorie equation. Oh well there is always the climbing wall tomorrow!

Fungi on the fell.

One of my regular walks in winter is on the forest tracks of Longridge Fell.  This is what I had in mind for today – a mixture of sun and showers.There is parking at SD 664 396. As you enter the forest you will have to be careful to avoid the piles of dog shit on the first 200m of the forest track!

They must be bursting when let loose. No comment.

Mind the poo!

Today on the radio is news of a fungus attacking ash trees – Chalara die back disease. This  fungus is thought to have been brought into Britain on infected stock from Europe. My experience of ash is that it seeds everywhere so why couldn’t  we have used indigenous seedlings for our forests??  Too late as it is spreading through Britain.
So it is distressing to find at the start of today’s walk signs warning of Ramorum fungus affecting the larch trees in the forest.

Ramorum fungus

When I first came to live in Longridge in the 70’s the fell was only recently planted up with forestry. As you walk around now you can still see traces of the walls that divided the fell previously. Probably most of the fell was used for sheep grazing.

Old boundary wall.

There are lots of lovely tracks through the trees.

Longridge Fell track

Continuing on the walk you can arrive at the trig point of Longridge Fell  at 350m. From here there are views of Chipping Vale and beyond. Morecambe Bay, the Bowland Fells and the Three Peaks in Yorkshire. A track leads east into the woods  and several alternative routes bring you back to your starting point. It’s worth going to Sam’s View on the main track for his view. No idea who Sam was.

Sam’s view.

Continuing now one goes through an area of felled trees. In the past Tilhill forestry have been very conscious of maintaining the environment of the fell with small pockets of tree felling taking place. Now because of Phytophthera ramorum disease they have to fell large areas of trees to try and prevent the spreading of the disease. This has led to some unsightly looking areas on the fell.


One hopes that this may be helpful but as the spores can be transmitted by the wind I have my doubts. The same applies to the ash problem. We didn’t solve the Dutch Elm disease problem! We just lost them.  I suspect that the larch and ash diseases are beyond our control now. Maybe better quarantine systems would have helped but if these fungi are airborne then there is very little we can do about it.

I’m not sure whether all the procedures to eliminate these fungi will have much affect. Will be interesting to return to the fell in 30yrs time, though I don’t think I’ll be around. In the long run nature will take it’s own course with me and the forest trees.

You can’t change the overall view from the Trig point, thank heavens!

What was that about wind turbines…….

Chipping Vale from Longridge Fell


    Just get out there and walk the local tracks.