Last night after a bouldering session at Craig y Longridge I drove up the fell and took in the familiar view over Chipping Vale to the Bowland Hills. In front of me were the Fairsnape, Wolf, Saddle, Burnslack and Totridge Fells. How many times have I photographed this scene? I’ve not been on the easterly of these for several years so there and then I decided on a full traverse of the range today. For every 100 visitors to Fairsnape there is probably only one on Totridge.
I can’t explain why I sat in bed with a couple of coffees delaying my departure. Sloth had taken control and it was with a great deal of difficulty that I finally emerged and started the walk at 11am. By then I realised a full traverse and return of 13 miles or so was impractical and I opted for a shorter 9miles from Saddle End, missing out Fairsnape. The heat of the last few days was diminished by a westerly breeze. Old tracks rise up from Saddle End farm and soon the open moor is reached. A steady metronomic pace is tapped out by my walking poles as I gain ground. There is not a soul in sight.
On the 26th March 1962 three siblings left home and travelled by bus to Chipping and
walked over the fells, maybe to Langden Castle, on their return over Saddle Fell they were caught in a blizzard which resulted in the two brothers losing their lives due to hypothermia. Their sister survived to raise the alarm at Saddle End Farm. There was no Mountain Rescue Team in the area at that time so police and locals searched with BAC loaning a helicopter to help. Shortly after this tragedy two Mountain Rescue teams were formed in the area, the forerunners of Bowland Pennine MRT.
I mention the above because it is thought the boys may have sheltered in a small stone hut. I remember early walks on Saddle Fell in the 70’s the hut being by the track I’m on today, its roof was almost intact. Now it is a pile of stones but with a tragic history which I recollect every time I pass.
Reaching the wild top of Saddle Fell ignoring the track to Fairsnape I turned east at the watershed to follow the fence towards Totridge seen a couple of miles away. This stretch of fell is usually one of the boggiest in the area, I’ve been pulled out of the depths on one occasion, deciding which side of the fence is the least hazardous often means crossing repeatedly without any real advantage. Today however the peaty ground was bone dry and I could just enjoy the scenery without any risk of sinking, the wooden poles placed to give buoyancy in wet conditions totally unneeded. [By the way the best ‘path’ is on the left of the fence.]
The views are far stretching over the Bowland area and all the hills and valleys I’ve been walking recently are identifiable. The Yorkshire Three Peaks are in the hazy background. Difficult to capture on camera.
All I had to do was follow the fence, there is one pond to navigate found and a short section above Whitmore where you leave the fence at a tangent and take off into the peat to regain a wall in a short distance before rising onto Totridge and a final open track to the trig point at 496m. The trig pillar is looking decidedly unstable as the peat below it erodes, it will topple before long.
From the top a small path, not marked on the map, heads NE to drop steeply off the fell towards Mellor Knoll. If the correct line is taken zigzags descend quite pleasantly, not so pleasant ascending. Halfway down today I found a place to sit, eat my sandwiches and contemplate the views over the Dunsop and Hodder valleys. In the distance over Mellor Knoll was a glimpse of Stocks Reservoir I walked around last week and closer at hand, above the Hodder, the tree capped Birkett Fell again climbed recently.
My way back was on a series of bridleways and paths linking remote farms in the limestone country below the fells. Higher Fence Wood, Dinkling Green and Lickhurst. From the latter the track went further back up into the fells than I remember and I speeded up a little as bad weather was coming in.
I used to cycle these ways when my children were getting into mountain biking, I don’t remember these stepping stones by a ford below Burnslack.