There was a beautiful sunrise today which heralded good weather to come.
I’d arranged with JD to continue our intimate exploration of Chipping Vale by following as close as possible the little River Loud on its way to join the Hodder. My route was ambitious as from previous experience I know some of these paths are rarely walked. I was hoping for an easy day because of my recent stiffness and should have been concerned with the first stile we encountered off the road, awkward and overgrown. To be honest we never really found a convincing path through the fields to the limestone Knainsley Quarry and once we were in its extensive area compass work was needed to get out. We emerged onto a lane bounded by expensive property conversions, lots of Range Rovers – that sort of place.
The next stile was impossible to negotiate, guarded by brambles and sloes, [reported to the authorities] but fortunately a gate took us into the same field to link up with a path that kept coming to more awkward overgrown stiles, but we slowly made progress to emerge probably on the wrong drive way at Loud Carr Side. All along this stretch we had wonderful views of the Bowland Fells to the north. Their road led us to Gibbon Bridge over the Loud. A substantial stile gave access to the river bank here populated with Himalayan Balsam and more worryingly Japanese Knotweed, The river is small and flows along at a snail’s pace. Pushing on through the vegetation we made progress down stream, despite acrobatic stiles, to the stepping-stones across the river. A few days ago there would have been little water here after the drought but we have had a lot of rain since and our crossing was a little tricky as some of the stones were submerged. A gentler stretch through fields and we emerged at Loud Mythom Bridge. What are these iridescent beetles ‘feeding’ on dock leaves? We walked on to Doeford Bridge where the Loud joins the much wider Hodder. A fisherman was casting in the Hodder below, a popular fishing river. We ate lunch at the bridge and watched many cyclists coming through from the Trough of Bowland, and also speeding motorists having close shaves on the bends.
We had considered continuing across the stepping-stones at Stakes Farm but walkers coming in the opposite direction confirmed that they were impossible with missing stones and high water which is a regular problem. So we backtracked up the lane and onto a track heading for Greenlands, as we walked through the farmyard a, fortunately chained, dog leapt out of its kennel narrowly missing JD. That raised our heart rates. More poor tracks and awkward stiles eventually brought us back to Gibbon Bridge. Cars were arriving for a wedding reception at the hotel. We didn’t have the heart to find the footpath through their grounds and spent the next half-hour or so lost in the fields which host the annual Chipping Steam Fair every May. Today turned out to be the Chipping Show held in fields on the edge of the village and we could hear loudspeaker announcements in the distance. The day was perfect for the show. From this side of the Loud we now had uninterrupted views south to Longridge Fell. A complicated series of fields, all thankfully well signed, took us from Pale Farm to the road and back over the Loud Lower Bridge to our car. We had achieved our idea of following the Loud but had found the walking difficult, in my condition, with overgrown paths and broken or blocked stiles.