One of the tags for my blog is ‘Chipping Vale’ and its used quite frequently. I’m often looking down into this valley as it lies between Longridge Fell and the Bowland Fells. I’m not sure whether this is an official designation or a figment of my imagination. There is no mention on the OS maps, basically I’m referring to the Loud River catchment area which arises in the hills near Beacon Fell and meanders under Chipping into the Hodder at Doeford Bridge. Well today we’ll explore into this valley.
There are several points of interest – historic houses, ancient bridleways and limestone quarries. I’ve a book about limestone kilns and quarries in the area which highlights Arbour Quarry at Thornley as a major commercial site, so I was keen to revisit it.
Since my trip up the NE coast of Scotland I’ve hit a problem – I suddenly overnight painfully stiffened up in my shoulders and thighs. After some prognostication I presented myself to my GP – Polymyalgia Rheumatica [PMR] was his initial diagnosis, but the blood tests were equivocal. Give it another week and nothing much has changed, painful stiffness and similar bloods. I’m limiting myself to gentle walks around the village later in the day when I’m less stiff.
To hell with it I’m going for a longer walk and phone JD for companion, he’s strong enough to carry me if things become difficult.
So our venture into Chipping Vale commences. Field tracks out of Longridge are taken past ponds, where my lads used to fish for tench, to Gill Bridge over the River Loud, more of a stream than a river, where they had tickled unsuccessfully for trout. Private roads through the Blackmoss Estate formerly Lord Derby’s domain took us past converted barns and gentrified houses as is the norm around here. Indistinct field paths which seemed little walked brought us into the farmyard of Hesketh End a grade one listed C17th house. The sandstone house has lovely mullioned windows and is noted for Latin inscriptions on the exterior telling of historic incidents.
A nearby property was ruinous 20 years ago and is now a substantial dwelling. We came out onto the road close to the recently closed Dog and Partridge, many pubs are capitulating in rural surroundings. From here we crossed the River Loud by a wooden footbridge. The banks of the river were heavily overgrown with Himalayan Balsam, its scent pervading the area. The low-lying meadows here are frequently flooded in the winter months when our track would be underwater. We were heading for the extensive Arbour quarry, a source of limestone into the early C 20th. Lime was important to the farmers for improving their land. All that remains now are grassed over ridges and ponds, the latter having a large duck population. Sitting on a limestone outcrop for lunch we were covered with little black flies which fortunately were of the non-biting variety. We couldn’t identify them but they were similar to ones I call Thunder Flies, it was certainly very humid today. There was wild mint growing everywhere giving a strong aroma and attracting Painted Lady butterflies. I had vague memories of a large limekiln somewhere here but we couldn’t find it today in all the summer growth. There is a photo in my book of it operational.
Crossing to the other side of the valley we climbed a lane to reach farms strung along the hillside of Longridge Fell on roughly the 150 m contour. I’ve often speculated this may be the spring line. Paths and lanes connect these properties and is known to some locals as ‘The Posties Track’. Some houses are still honest working farms but more and more are renovated as desirable properties, I must admit they all have superb views over Chipping Vale towards the Bowland Fells. We re-entered Longridge on the old railway line that ran along to stone quarries. The gentle walking was no problem but my stiffness made getting over the numerous stiles comical.