Evening light on Pendle.

As I lazed away this morning reading I came across a comment about Fox’s well on Pendle Hill.

George Fox was born in 1624 and was in his 20s by the time of the civil wars between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians. This was also a time of questioning the established religious ideas. Fox was travelling the country preaching an alternative simpler Christian message. By the 1650s he was in Northern England and in 1652 according to his journal…

“As we travelled we came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high”                                    “When I was come to the top, I saw the sea bordering upon Lancashire. From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered”                                                   “As I went down, I found a spring of water in the side of the hill, with which I refreshed myself, having eaten or drunk but little for several days before”

Hence, the name, Fox’s Well, in memory of his visit. He went on to found The Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers. Many parts of the North became Quaker strongholds and because of his vision Pendle Hill became a special place for Quakers.


Well no time to lose.                                                                                                                                 The sun was shining but it was already 11am, I’m slow to get going these days.                          The well is not marked on the OS maps but I had a grid reference SD 80494200, I must have walked past it on my last visit here.                                                                                                          As I drove across I was planning a route in  my head, park in Barley and walk the hill on its steep side, the Big End. Coming down the road that cuts across the east side of Pendle I was astonished to see a line of parked cars stretching for half a mile, negotiating past them wasn’t easy.  Things were even worse in the village with the car park full to overflowing and lots of desperate drivers cruising about. So this is a Covid-19 day out for half of Lancashire. I curse myself – I shouldn’t have come to a honeypot on a Sunday.

Just as I’m thinking of going elsewhere I remember a safe and legal pull in on the road perfect for my little car. So Just after mid-day I’m walking back up the hill past all those badly parked cars. I then join the crowds along to Pendle House and then up the steep stepped path. Not really my idea of a day’s fell walking but I have an objective so it’s a matter of head down and grin and bear it.

As if by magic as soon as I cross the stile at the far end the masses disappear, they are on the way to the crowded Trig point which I can happily miss today. I pick up the track heading down the north side and before long I can hear running water. It becomes a gushing sound and there on the hillside is flowing water from a spring. Just above is the metal cover of the well and lo and behold when I lift it  there is the goblet to fill with the clearest of water to quench my thirst. The best water in Lancashire it is said, I wouldn’t disagree.

Feeling pleased with myself I ponder my onward journey. I have no intention of joining the masses on the summit, so I pick up a traversing path going west. This takes me to a stone shelter on the edge of the northern escarpment where I’d planned a lunch stop. Perfect. As I’m finishing a youthful foursome from Liverpool arrive. I share the seating with them and enjoy their banter. Onwards to the Scouting Cairn and then I decide to go over Spence Moor, Pendle’s little brother. I forgot to mention that the views are outstanding today in all directions. I have a birds eye view of Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley. Over towards Longridge Fell and Bowland parapenters are circling. The Three Peaks, Skipton and East Lanc’s hills, Winter Hill and the distant Welsh mountains complete the panorama.

I’m surprised to find a recently improved track heading my direction, probably coming from The Nick of Pendle. Reluctantly I soon have to leave it to maintain height to Spence Moor. There is nobody about and on the rough pathless ground I put up grouse, snipes and skylarks.

On the way across boggy ground I come across a sheep on its back – riggwelted.           Riggwelter takes its name from Yorkshire dialect with Nordic roots; “rygg” meaning back, and “velte” meaning to overturn. A sheep is said to be rigged or ‘riggwelted’ when it has rolled onto its back and is unable to get back up without assistance. You can experience the same by drinking a few pints of Black Sheep Brewery’s Riggwelter beer. Anyhow, I came to the rescue of this girl although she didn’t seem very appreciative.

There are no markers to announce my arrival at the rounded summit of Spence Moor. A little further and I pick up a soggy path going east. Down to my right are the East Lancs towns of Nelson and Colne. While over to the left is a different view of Pendle, my steep ascent path is clearly seen on the right.

I decided, perhaps wrongly, to drop steeply down to the two Ogden reservoirs, it would have been better in retrospect to have carried on high towards Newchurch.

A tarmacked lane descended to Barley Green where there has been a tasteful conversion of old Nelson Waterboard 1930 buildings to living accommodation. And then I was back into Blackpool, err no,  sorry – Barley. There were no-parking signs everywhere and I can only imagine the hassle that the locals have had during this strange pandemic when the world and his dog have to go walking. Normally this is a pleasant village to wander through.

I’ll come on a weekday in the future.







  1. Charlie Bowman

    You did well to escape the madding crowd. I have walked for an entire day high in the Tirol without seeing a soul, which to some might be disconcerting but it worked for me. Doing that in this country, away from walkers and those egregious long dog leads, is becoming a losing battle.

  2. conradwalks.blogspot.com

    What a splendid post. A doubtful objective that turns out to be more than usually rewarding leading on to other delights – making things happen. It reminds me of ascending Canigou on the GR10 but sort of opposite way round – after having an exciting scramble up a rocky gully to the summit I encountered crowds approaching and departing on the tourist route at the other side similar to your photo. That heading photo is brill.

  3. conradwalks.blogspot.com

    I meant to add that there is a Fox’s Pulpit at SD 619 937 north-east of Jct. 37 on the M6. Apparently he preached to large crowds from this rock in the middle of nowhere. I suppose the location was to ensure a low profile from the opposition.

  4. Eunice

    Looking at the photos of the masses that would be my idea of a walk from hell but at least you managed to escape them for some peace and quiet. I’m glad you found the well although I don’t think I would want to drink from it. Well done on righting the sheep, I did the same myself in Cumbria last year.

    1. bowlandclimber

      I couldn’t believe the volume of people, in their hundreds without exaggeration.
      The water was crystal clear and delicious, better than I get out of my tap. On the continent people drive up to the fonts with large plastic containers to fill for drinking at home.

  5. Michael Graeme

    Brilliant circuit, very satisfying read. I’m not used to seeing Barley as busy as that, even on a Sunday.

    1. bowlandclimber

      I’ve never seen anything like it. The car park was a comedy to watch as people, large 4x4s in particular, drove round and round in ever diminishing circles with no hope of parking.
      Is the term Chelsea Tractor still used?
      Then it transpired into a classic wild moorland day to be remembered..

      1. Michael Graeme

        Yes, I still use that word. Chelsea Tractor. They look enormous from an MX5, often driven by people who seem barely in control, totally unsuitable for our little roads. I do love Pendle, had some good days on it. Never done that circuit though. I’ve made a note!

  6. shazza

    I think everybody and everyone go to Barley to go up Pendle. I still haven’t don e those Pendle steps. Hate walking up hill , especially when I know about a million people are going to pass me. 😅

    1. bowlandclimber

      Don’t do the Barley Steps.
      There is a good way up from Worston/Angram Green and then back down to Hookcliffe Plantation/Downham.
      You can’t live in Clitheroe without climbing Pendle.
      A million people passed me on the way up!!!

  7. shazza

    I have been up Pendle different ways in the past, the most recent being from the Wellsprings, which is a bit of a cheat. I grew up at Little Mearley Hall farm and we had to go up Pendle every year from there to gather the sheep

    1. bowlandclimber

      I’m so sorry when you said you hadn’t done the steps I thought you hadn’t been up it at all.
      You more than most coming from Little Mearley will know the routes.
      My favourite is the one up Mearley Clough.
      Did you know about the well? It was new to me.

  8. Martin Banfield

    An excellent posting, Bowland. I remember as a student climbing Pendle Hill annually at the end of October, many of the girls dressing as witches, adjourning for hotpot and mushy peas (strange new food for the southerners) at a local hostelry. I don’t recall any crowds then, nor on my more recent visits with East Lancs LDWA.

    1. bowlandclimber

      I chose the wrong day to head up there.
      People still climb Pendle in their hoards at Halloween, the police make the roads a one way circuit to cope. The locals must dread it.

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