Towneley to Hapton.
I had chosen Towneley Hall as a convenient starting point for the 40mile Burnley Way which I’d broken down into three days’ walking. I’d obtained an excellent leaflet guide from Burnley Council which detailed the walk very well and it is marked on the 1:25,000 OS map OL21. I could see that a radial bus service would ease getting to and from daily start and finishing points, living so close it wasn’t worth paying for B and B.
A late start and a shortened day to let the morning’s rain abate. On the no 483 bus this morning was a man in full golfing regalia with trolley and bag so I knew we had arrived at Towneley Golf Club when he got off. I could have been anywhere but crossing the road I came across the first of the BW waymarks with the birds beak giving the direction up a little lane. I couldn’t make out the coke ovens which were supposed to be hereabouts but soon came across an art installation, part of the Wayside Arts Trail, a red brick kiln which is sadly falling apart or has been vandalised – a depressing thought. I realised I’d forgotten my camera so out came the phone.
Onto an affluent housing estate old tracks passed between properties, not the terraced housing one associates with Burnley, this is the west side of town. Crossing a busy road I climbed up the hillside and was immediately looking down on the town and its moorland surroundings, this view was shared by the golfers I joined on an interesting looking course. I navigated my way between greens and across fairways without causing too much trouble and out onto the open fell. Up here apparently was the site of an Isolation Hospital serving smallpox and scarlet fever at the beginning of the 20th century and later TB patients, it was certainly isolated, how things have changed in a hundred years. Away to the left was the Singing Ringing Tree a well known sculpture I’ve visited on other occasions, its a shame it was not incorporated into the BW by following the Arts Trail.
Downhill in poor visibility towards Clowbridge Reservoir to cross another busy Pennine road linking the mill towns of the area, this one was heading to Rossendale I think. By the road were signs of previous mining activity with adits going into the hillside, this turned out to be the site of 19th century Wholaw Nook colliery. Four stones from the foundations have been carved by Ian Grant to represent Four Seasons in a Day, a reference to the local weather.
On the open moor track on the otherside of the road I met a couple from Bury who had been on the SW Coastal Path about the same time as myself so we swapped stories. They are hoping to backpack the BW in the near future. I found negotiating Nutshaw Farm a bit complicated with all the building work, I was not the only one as further on up a rough cart track was a delivery van with a puzzled driver trying to follow his satnav, I suggested he turned round while he could and sorted a route out for him on the good old fashioned 1:25,000 OS.
A steady ascent above Clowbridge Reservoir and I was on Hambledon Hill, but not the trig point, with its various communication towers. Pendle Hill was visible to the north but south I couldn’t identify the moorlands. Even up here there was a burnt out car.
Ahead was Great Hambledon but the BW doesn’t seem to bother with isolated summits, I was however drawn to a prominent cairn on the edge of the escarpment. This involved crossing boggy ground on a vague track with small stone quarries below me along the rim. The cairn gave me a chance to eat my sandwiches while watching the wind turbines to the east, these are always prominent from the A56 as you wind out of the Ribble Valley. Pendle was still misty and views into Bowland disappointing.
Because I’d gone off route I had to find a way down the rocks which now encircled the moor and this proved tricky and time consuming. Once down there was a stretch of rough ground, an old firing range, an almost impregnable plantation and some irritating farm tracks. The plantation was one that had been developed with the help of lottery funding creating the Forest of Burnley project with many sites on the route. Then I was in Castle Clough Woods. I had been here before on The Hyndburn Way and was intrigued by the deep gorge apparently created by glacial meltwater. I was keen to explore further and left the BW once more and dropped into the gorge itself which has a small stream running down it. Heavily wooded steep slopes with quarried rocky outcrops must provide a diverse natural habitat – this is a hidden gem.
I managed to find a way out into Hapton playing fields and back to the station just as the weather was starting to improve.