A couple of years ago I ended up walking around Stocks Reservoir almost by mistake from Slaidburn and realised too late there was a new path courtesy of NW Water actually crossing the dam wall to complete a shorter circuit. Today along with JD and Sir Hugh we enjoyed this shorter circuit of Stocks Reservoir.
We met up at a lonely spot on the road from Slaidburn to High Bentham. This is one of my favourite routes into Yorkshire, a little further from where we rendezvoused is Cross of Greet Bridge over the infant Hodder and from there the road goes up to a lonely pass between White Hill and Catlow Fell. Then a sweeping descent over the Tatham Fells into High Bentham, passing on the way The Great Stone of Fourstones, a glacial erratic, perfect for bouldering on. I digress.
We were soon on the well waymarked trail, but with no sign of the reservoir. A flagged path through fields took us down to the Hodder, where a footbridge has replaced the original stepping stones. I realise all too late that at the centre of my camera lens is a blob of suntan cream – an amateur mistake which will plague me all day. There is a memorial plaque to a Gil Moorehead for which I can find no information.
Chatting faltered as we climbed the steep slope to the ruins of New House, one of the many farms abandoned when The Fylde Water Board purchased land for water catchment in this valley around the time of WW1. From up here, we had our first sight of Stocks Reservoir which is named after the village of Stocks which disappeared underwater when the dam was built and opened officially in 1932, flooding the valley. The adjacent Gisburn Forest appropriated more farming land. The history of the whole enterprise of constructing the reservoir is detailed on a fascinating website, Dalehead and Stocks in Bowland.
As we walked down towards the water a trio of fell runners passed us coming up the hill only to be encountered once again later in the day as they completed their circuit. We agreed that this is a ready-made perfect little run.
The path was varied with sections of woodland and open meadows. The latter were full of flowers at this time of year, orchids, foxgloves and many varieties of grasses.
There are birdwatching hides, and we visited one overlooking the water. Below we could see many geese, cormorants, ducks and gulls, but the posted lists from more proficient ‘twitchers’ were extensive with over 50 species seen some days.
Down at the main car park are the remains of St. James Church, which was demolished and rebuilt on higher ground. We speculated on the origin of a nearby spectacular Weeping Beech.
Onwards a new path has been created to avoid the road until we reached the causeway, here mountain bikers swooped out of Gisburn Forest. But almost immediately we were back on a concessionary path above the reservoir and missed out seeing the resited St. James Chapel. We walked through meadows with good views over the water to the Bowland Fells, little boats carried fishermen to various parts of the Reservoir.
At the dam we crossed over the Hodder culvert and had lunch sat on top of the dam embankment watching fishermen cast into the waters with the occasional catch of rainbow trout.
The café for fishermen didn’t look inviting, so we pushed on.
We were now walking on an old railway line up to a quarry where stone was supplied to the dam construction team.
We were soon back at the cars, ready for a slow journey home…
A splendid walk through rich environmental terrain. I too tried the Internet for Gil Moorehead and also the obscure abbreviation and even though I dug pretty deep I found nothing. Do you think there is anybody local who may know something? I hate being defeated with this sort of thing.
Will follow it up.
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