My stereotypical image of prehistoric life is of a family sat eating round a fire, animal bones scattered about, in the mouth of a cave. Hence this morning I found myself sat in a cave entrance high above the River Hodder near Whitewell living the dream. Fairy Holes Cave was excavated in 1946 and more recently in 2013 and has revealed cremated human bones, animal bones and pieces of pottery dated to the early Bronze Age. I had not been here for maybe 35 years when I had come to show my children the virtually unknown site. I remember it took some finding and was on private land – it remains so to this day. Once located there are three caves in a limestone outcrop, the middle one being by far the most extensive. A high entrance leads to a 25m long cave which you need to stoop along until at the furthest point a phreatic tube allows you to stand again. My head torch only allowed a poor view of the features but I was hoping some photos would show more. Having satisfied my speleological desires I clambered up the hillside and continued on my walk through this limestone area of Bowland.
The early morning start north of Chipping saw me parked up at the end of a bridleway, now a surfaced lane, leading to a prominent Lime-kiln on Knott Hill, this was used to provide lime for the fields and mortar. Throughout this walk little outcrops and quarries of limestone are discovered.
The tracks onwards to Lickhurst Farm were waterlogged reflecting the amount of rain we’ve experienced this summer. Got chatting to the weathered farmer, whom I knew from a previous life, about these isolated Bowland Hill farms. He is due for retirement soon and is one of the last generation born and bread in the area. So many buildings, farms and barns have been upgraded for a new breed of incomers. The property next to him which seemed derelict a couple of years ago when I passed through now offers luxury accommodation. We speculated, with a smile, on how they will manage cut off in the next harsh winter – no doubt helicopters will be involved and the TV will report on a survival rescue.
The next stretch through more wet fields passed farmsteads, Dinkling Green and Higher Fence Wood, amidst curious Limestone Knolls surrounded by the Bowland Fells: a juxtaposition of grit and lime. Hereabouts I had heard of caves but never found them, I wandered about in vain for awhile and was on the verge of giving up when I spotted a fenced enclosure, a give away really. There it was – an obvious cave opening in an outcrop. It turned out to be a few cave entrances to a system which looked as though it extended down into deeper passages – not for me alone today. Has this cave a name I wonder?
Down the lane and across fields towards a small quarried outcrop which I remember bouldering on years ago and which is now in the definitive Lancashire Bouldering Guide named appropriately Reef Knoll Crag. Anyhow passing quickly onwards I arrive in the farm yard of New Laund where workers are busy sorting sheep. Nobody notices my diversion to Fairy Holes…
… my continuation over New Laund Hill gives views back to ‘The Jaws of Bowland’ with Mellor Knoll, Burholme Bridge and the Whitendale Fells prominent. Ahead is the deep wooded valley enclosing The Hodder with the slopes of Longridge Fell behind. Some creative navigation through Fair Oak put me on the right track to Greystonely, another farmstead with converted buildings, the one whose residents I knew were out so no cups of tea! The bridleway over a ford quickly took me back to my car and I was home for lunch.