Monthly Archives: June 2016

THE LANCASHIRE WITCHES WALK – Clitheroe to Slaidburn.

The scenery changes today as we leave the Ribble Valley and climb into the Bowland Hills. Rain is forecast and its rather dull in Clitheroe. Canoeists float downstream as we cross the river at Brungerley Bridge  and a group of youngsters are on the field path learning navigation.  We soon leave them behind and cross fields around Waddington, most of the farms/barns look hundreds of years old but many have had expensive makeovers.  Looking back Pendle Hill is in cloud. The hay meadows we pass through are full of flowers and brighten up a dull day. I have a painting at home representing the same scene. As we climb onto the moor on a drove road we realise we have been here together before whilst exploring Easington Fell last winter.There are no views today in the low cloud which is a shame as this is a wild and desolate moor. On the map are marked The Wife and Old Ned but they turn out to be disappointing piles of stones. A good track, presumably shooting, takes us down the fell to a shooting lodge marked as Fell Side. Dogs are caged up and greet us excitedly. At the moment we arrive the rain starts so we are lucky to find shelter and tables outside the lodge, lunch is taken. On the approach I had stuck my walking pole under a stone and a metal trap snapped shut almost breaking it, I couldn’t imagine what it could do to fingers. What are they trying to catch? Our lunchtime was enlivened by a ‘turkey’ parading about in front of the windows. The rain stopped and we continued on our way over a hill and down into Slaidburn, usually seen with a backdrop of Bowland Fells, but not today. Our tercet was in the carpark. The village was busy hosting a small steam fair which kept us entertained for awhile though the crowds and vehicles detractied from the normal tranquility of this lovely village. Familiar paths through woods and then open fields gained height, Curlews and Lapwings became a constant sight and sound. On past a graveyard for farming implements which looked like a ‘herd’ of dinosaurs across the land. We finished the day under the Bowland Fells just before the start of Roman Road over Salter Fell. We will want better visibility for that next section.







An interesting day’s walk.

Delightful walking through farmland started the day from Higham. We passed several old farmhouses with mullioned windows and in the distance saw an unusual Gothic feeding shed [on the Huntroyde estate]


The next estate we entered was Read Hall, the walk goes through converted stables and into the parkland next to the rebuilt hall. Its owner in 1612 was Roger Nowell the magistrate who sent the witches to trial at Lancaster. Under Pendle Hill we followed bridleways which may well have been the actual route taken by the carts used to transport the captured witches. We diverted to Spring Wood to view our third tercet.

 Read Hall parkland.

Read Hall parkland.


On arriving at Wiswell we found a hidden pub, Freemasons Arms, and enjoyed a relaxing drink in its cosy bar. The village was a delight to explore with its alleys, stone cottages and neat gardens.

As we wandered through fields towards Clitheroe the sky was blackening over Pendle Hill and before long we were in a brief thunder storm.

Darkening skies.

Darkening skies.


Clitheroe is dominated by its castle and we spent time exploring. In the castle grounds was an ornamental turret, 1850, removed from the parapet of The Houses of Parliament and presented to the Borough of Clitheroe in 1937. Strange. We collected our 4th tercet and finished the day in sunshine at the parish church.



It was a hot morning when Sir Hugh and I parked up next to the Heritage Centre in Barrowford, the start of The Lancashire Witches Walk. Having  found the first tercet installment with its verse and witches’ name we set off through the alleys and cobbled back streets and were pleasantly surprised by the hidden beauty of the town. There were many reminders of its industrial past and we contemplated the human movement to and from the mills on the footpaths we were following today. Soon we were out into rural Lancashire at its best, undulating tracks between small stone built hamlets, over fields and alongside sparkling streams. On arriving in Barley we suddenly collided with mass tourism alongside Pendle Water – more Blackpool than countryside. Somehow we missed the cafe.  Then we were climbing away and passing the presumed site of  Malkin Tower, home of the Demdike family, a ruined hillside farm. .The next hour passed pleasantly but aimlessly circling round Lower Ogden Reservoir passing another tercet.  We ate lunch in the shade high above Newchurch in Pendle. Once in the village the Witches Galore gift shop had to be visited stocking everything from tacky witches to learned books, The lady owner had been there for 30 years and was a wealth of knowledge.  Sir Hugh emerged with a witch to scare his granddaughter and I another black cat, Impulsive shoppers. On a more cultural note we visited the church with its ‘eye of God’ to ward off evil spirits.  I was keen to visit the nearby Faughs Quarry where I’d climbed in the past and where there is a carved face in the rock, ?created by one of the quarry-men. Up to the ridge, Rigg of England, with good views, and then down to the village of Fence where the pub is closed and new housing is taking over.

Old house in Fence.

Old house in Fence.

Along the main road Ashlar House was passed, here some of the witches were questioned by local magistrates in 1612. The route onwards through  Lower White Lee farm was not helpfully waymarked and we had the impression they didn’t want walkers on their land. We finished in Higham with its prominent pub, Four Alls Inn, where one of the  witches, “Chattox” was accused of turning the beer sour  and bewitching the landlord’s son!

A good start to our walk with varied scenery and interesting histor



The Pendle district of Lancashire is infamous for its history of witches. Back in the 15-16th centuries witches made a living from herbal remedies, bone-setting and midwifery [humans and animals] and dabbled in curses and spells.  Usually single women they lived on the edges of society. Things came to a head in April 1612 when Alizon Device, a Demdike,  had an argument with a pedlar and he suffered what was probably a stoke. The landed gentry, who were also the magistrates, were keen to support the monarchy, James 1st who was opposed to ‘witchcraft’ and hoping to put themselves in a good light saw an opportunity to prosecute Alizon. Things then became complicated as other families, such as Chattox, were embroiled in the plots. Eventually twenty local ‘witches’  were arrested and brought before the magistrates and taken to Lancaster Castle for trial. Ten were hung in August of that year. Over the years a great deal of folklore has developed from this story. The walk, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the events, was designed to follow roughly the route from Pendle to Lancaster and include some notable locations. Alongside this again to celebrate the 400 years  the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has written a poem in ten tercets to comment on the proceedings. To reflect the poem 10 cast iron installations  have been placed along the route each with a tercet from the poem and the name of a witch.

‘The Lancashire Witches’ by Carol Ann Duffy

One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.

Here, heavy storm-clouds, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.

From poverty, no poetry
but weird spells, half-prayer, half-threat;
sharp pins in the little dolls of death.

At daylight’s gate, the things we fear                                                                                               darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.

Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon

below which Demdike, Chattox, shrieked,
like hags, unloved, an underclass,
badly fed, unwell. Their eyes were red.

But that was then- when difference
made ghouls of neighbours; child beggars                                                                                              feral, filthy, threatened in their cowls.

Grim skies, the grey remorse of rain;
sunset’s crimson shame; four seasons,
centuries, turning, in Lancashire,

away from Castle, Jury, Judge,
huge crowd, rough rope, short drop, no grave
only future tourists who might grieve.

The walk is 51miles long and divides neatly into 5 sections, which being relatively short would give us time to explore. Following on from our successful Wainwright’s Outliers venture Sir Hugh and I have joined forces to complete the walk which is fairly local to both of us. This also will facilitate car sharing logistics for daily ventures. The path has been well waymarked and much of the scenery will have changed little in the 400 years.

There are a couple of guide books available as well as a wealth of information on the web.

The Lancashire Witches Walk Guide.   Ian Thornton-Bryar  and  John Sparshatt, who developed the route.

The Lancashire Witches Walk.   Sue and Peter Flowers, Artistic Directors of Green Close who developed the Lancashire Witches 400 program and involved the various artists and Carol Duffy.

THE LANCASHIRE WITCHES WALK – Slaidburn to Caton Moor.

As we wandered up the Roman Road to Salter Fell I was expounding to Sir Hugh about the remoteness of this track and how one hardly meets another person when we glanced behind to see about 20 walkers bearing down on us. A charity walk was in progress, from Slaidburn to Lancaster on our route, they all seemed cheerful enough and we managed to keep our own solitude for most of the day. In truth they were going far quicker than us.

Charity walkers.

Charity walkers.


This is a familiar way for me, I must have walked it dozens of times whilst approaching The Bullstones a favourite remote moorland bouldering area of mine. The extensive rocks were clearly seen across the valley and I scanned some of my favourites with binoculars. Below in Croasdale is a barn with unusual stone sheep pens, I have bivied there with my grandson and watched Hen Harriers before their demise. We soon passed today’s tercet no 6.   A good pace had us over the watershed and looking down into Whitendale, another remote valley with Wolfstones high above and the Chipping fells in the background. To add to the splendour the Yorkshire Three Peaks became hazily visible as our track stretched across the moors. This is the place to be on a summer’s day and we stopped for lunch.  Black clouds appeared and it was raining over The Lune Valley, but we stayed dry for now. Leaving the main track at Higher Salter we plunged into an unknown world of deep hidden cloughs at the head of Mallowdale. A roller-coaster mile or so past remote farms, wooded valleys and uncut meadows,. A haphazard route where we had to keep checking our navigation, the preceding charity group had left a trail that helped. Waterproofs were donned but by the final rise onto Caton Moor we were drying out and reflecting on a great days walking full of contrasts.


A quick update from France.

The weather patterns have certainly become confused this year. We arrived in The Lot at the tail end of the bad weather which saw flooding in Paris and for the first few days it was cold, wet and miserable. Despite that short walks were achieved every day, lots of weeding in the garden and I even braved a swim most days. The orchids were past their best but sweet peas brightened up the byways. Different, to us, restaurants were visited and old friendships renewed. Lots of dark Cahors wine was imbibed. Talk was of the referendum; even the British living out here are divided.   Due to duplicate shopping trips, we amassed at one stage three dozen croissants – breakfasts became a major event.

JpegJpegThe weather changed to hot and sunny, butterflies appeared in their hundreds, kites and buzzards wheeled over the garden, out came the barbecue, the sun loungers appeared and the pool became the most desirable place to be.

The change in our weather fortunes reminds me of that old comedy song by Al Sherman ‘A letter from camp’  – they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.



From now on the shade of the woods was needed to make walking in the heat possible.


Soon be  home – that’s your Lot.






LANGDALE CLIMBING – first visit to White Crag.

From time to time my friend Mark phones for a day’s climbing whilst his school pupils sit exams or he is ‘officially’ marking papers – these outings have become known as ‘Marking Days’. So it was this week when we met up late morning in the carpark of a local curry house.  He had just acquired a camping van and proudly showed me round. The forecast was for thundery rain in the afternoon but we risked a trip up to Langdale to have a look at White Crag. I must have walked above this outcrop so many times on my way up to Gimmer without being aware of its existence. The valley was quiet with only one team on Raven Crag when we passed under it and then followed a level track to the lower of the two White Crag buttresses, a gentle 15mins.

Approaching the lowest White Crag.

Approaching the lowest White Crag.

Immediately two lines stood out  – the grooves of Bee Line and the Bumble Arete.                   Mark set off up the grooves which were cleaner than they appeared to a small overlap where a neat step up and left gained a wall with smaller holds, we didn’t think Bee Line, HS, warranted  a 4c grade.

Mark onto the arete of Bee Line.

Mark onto the arete of Bee Line.

Bumble Arete, VD, was pure joy – a little wall brought me suddenly onto the arete which had the best of holds all the way to the top, 60ft up. Worth the two stars.

Bumble Arete on the right.

Bumble Arete on the right.

Well satisfied we were having a snack when the boom of thunder filled the valley, the sky darkened and ominent  large rain drops splattered the rock. We sat tight for a while and thankfully the storm rumbled off to some other unfortunate Lakeland valley. So it was time to have a look at the upper crag which has only recently been  developed.

Once again obvious  lines on excellent rock promised good climbing.  Left Trouser Leg People, MVS, was brilliant, Easy rocks soon had Mark at the cruxy  move onto a slab and up into the left groove and a lovely finish round the overhang on jugs.We found a sneaky chain abseil which greatly eased the evenings climbing.

Move onto slab.

Move onto slab.

Juggy finish.

Juggy finish.

I couldn’t wait to get onto  Val Ferret, HS, just left, a groovy groove, a spicy layback and juggy finish. A grade easier but also worth two stars.

My sandwich box with  its tasty quiche was missing when we sat down to rest, left at lower crag no doubt, so my weight loss diet had a jump start.

Next was  Right Trouser Leg People, VS, a tricky wall lower down and  an absorbing groove higher up. A quick abseil and onto the thin slab of Langdale Ferrets, VS, with its steep finish.

Awkward slab on Lakeland Ferrets.

Awkward slab on Lakeland Ferrets.

Finishing Lakeland Ferrets.

Finishing Lakeland Ferrets.

As we gazed out over the green fields and rough hillsides opposite we seemed to be the only people in the valley.  A perfect end to a great days climbing. I will definitely return to these lovely unknown crags.

By the time we were back in Preston I was too weary for a curry but thanked them for the parking.      Roll on the next ‘Marking day’.