I’m content to sit and peruse OS maps on a cold, wet and windy day. In front of me is the 1:25000 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale [OL41]. I’m not too keen on double-sided maps, especially in a howling gale when you always need the reverse side. but the west side covers my local hills. Unfortunately, Longridge lies off the edge of this sheet and another, the Blackpool and Preston [Explorer 285]. It just makes the edge of Explorer 287, West Pennine Moors. All very difficult for a days walk.
Curiosity aroused I wondered about its origins, the fact that it ends at the river suggests there may have been a ford here in times past, but there is no path marked on the other bank. Does anybody ever walk this dead-end path? maybe fishermen and presumably the local farmers. Does it even exist on the ground? Lancashire C.C. still shows it as a right of way on their website. On an older map, I see that the trees at its end are named Limekiln Wood, could there have been a lime kiln at the end of the track?
The sun is coming out this afternoon, time to explore and see where I get to.
I was apprehensive as I left the road at Walker Fold. The footpath sign was hidden in the foliage, the lane looked private and there was a lot of water flowing everywhere. I have to admit to carrying wire cutters in my pocket. The first ‘obstacle’ would be the grounds of the properties on the lane but I needn’t have worried – there was a stile with an arrow pointing me across their land via more stiles and a little bridge. Soon I was in open fields with well-constructed and maintained stiles showing the way, many of these appeared relatively new. In fact, this was country walking as it should be, the sign of a responsible landowner? The only downside was the rain saturated fields courtesy of our recent storms. A footbridge crossed a lively stream and the path weaved through plantations. Ahead on the horizon was the familiar outline of the Bowland Fells.
Once over a farm access road, my gravelled track started to descend towards the Hodder which could be heard before it was seen. Sheep looked at me as though they rarely saw anybody, mind you they always look like that. And then there I was stood next to the raging river with as I’d guessed a lime kiln built into the hillside. Along the banks were the limestone crags, the raison d’etre of the kiln and the original path. There was another clue as to the path’s continued existence – a small fishing hut and stiles giving access to the river. Lancashire Fly Fishing Association maintain this stretch.
What an idyllic spot on a summers day but at the moment the river is in flood mode and roaring down the valley. I was in a different world down here, the hidden Hodder, and for half an hour or so I watched in awe.
Mission completed I retraced my steps up the hill and used the road back to Walker Fold to avoid the worst of the soggy fields. A couple of things to note in this little hamlet of less than a dozen houses. It won the Lancashire’s best kept hamlet competition in 1994 and 2006 and boasts an old School/Chapel with links to The Latter-day Saints movement back in the mid C19th.
Now let’s have a closer look at those maps again…