The clocks have changed, but my body hasn’t caught up as yet. Today had a sparkling alpine start and promised to be the best of the week. I struggled to get up having lost an hour somewhere. But with the minimum of faffing I’m away by 10.30. It only takes me a half hour to drive out to Dunsop Bridge. I know the sun doesn’t set tonight until after 7pm, so there is no rush, that’s the way I like it.
Walk number 12, Whin Fell and Brennand, of Mark Sutcliffe’s guide promises – Another classic hill walk combining steep climbs, big views and pleasant riverside rambling in the secluded hills and dales at the heart of the Forest of Bowland,
He has covered Bowland well with ten walks on my back door. Today I parked up just off the Trough road as recommended. Soon I was following a permissive path alongside Langden Brook. Oyster Catchers seem to have taken over many of our rivers but in the background I could plainly hear Lapwings and Curlews. This is open fell country,but since 1960 their numbers have dropped by 85%.
Back on the road I pass the farmstead of Sykes.
The lime kiln gives a clue as to the bedrock hereabouts, but I shall soon be high in gritstone country.
The Trough of Bowland road snakes ever so slowly up the valley. I branch off right and have my own hill to climb.
The track soon peters out, and I’m left on boggy pathless territory forever upwards. This is designated as a bridleway, and I remember coming this way on a mountain bike 35 years ago with my son. No chance now. This area is isolated from the usual Bowland haunts, and I’m surprised to meet three walkers descending the pass. A friendly trio and we exchange banter. They have driven up from Manchester, preferring this area to the crowded Peak District. They soon become a dot on this vast landscape as they descend towards the Trough Road and I struggle upwards. Across the way Totridge Fell keeps its head above most of the fells around here.
The last time I was up here I continued to the top of Whin Fell with views to Morecambe Bay and beyond. This certainly feels like the centre of Bowland. Today I was conserving my energy to complete a rugged 7-mile circuit. and I soon reached the boggy col. Way down in the valley was Brennand Farm – the promised land. All I had to do was traverse Ouster Rake. It wasn’t as bad as I remember it. Over the years a groove has been eroded into the hillside making it feel far less exposed. But come a harsh winter and this becomes an icy trap where there have been several accidents. I still don’t believe I have cycled this route. I find a flat rock and eat my sandwich gazing down into the Brennand Valley, I must follow it higher into the hills one day, I don’t think I have ever been to the evocatively named Whitendale Hanging Stones.
Looking back I was surprised to see how steep and craggy are the northern slopes of Whin Fell. At Brennand Farm (notice how it complements Sykes Farm passed earlier) all is pleasant with newborn lambs in the fields, no Spring walk is complete without some lamb photos. On down the Brennand Valley and then strangely back upwards to join Whitendale.
From the water catchment works under Middle Knoll the River Dunsop gathers pace down the valley. All very familiar to me. I, too, gather pace alongside it on the good tarmacked water board road. I stop to try, unsuccessfully, to capture a photo of the Dippers merrily skimming down the river. Sometimes Kingfishers flash up this section . There has been a lot of tree felling along here in the last few years. I’m soon onto those boggy fields I traversed last week to get me back onto the Trough road below Mellor Knoll and Totridge, and my car. There is plenty of light left for further exploration. Don’t get your Middle Knoll get confused with the Mellor Knoll.
Post script. You will recall my horror the other day at the erosion being caused in the beech woods on the lower slopes of Totridge Fell above the Inch Perfect Trail Bikes outfit. Well let’s take the bull by the horns and drive up to their headquarters. It’s a long lane up to ‘New Hay Barn’ as it was. Now the centre for trail bike riding with accolades from Lancashire Tourism. I must admit they have developed a professional trail biking heaven. Lots of manufactured technical obstacles in the lower fields for the enthusiastic biker. I enter the impressive shop full of no doubt expensive bikes and kit, electric ones being top of the range. Videos are playing of the destruction they are doing to the hillsides. All very Formula One.
Simon the manager is on the defensive as I casually say I had been on the public bridleway on his land last week and was distressed to see the erosion and damage being perpetrated in the beech woods above. He asserts that all has been verified planning wise, though I doubt the fine details. He seems to imagine, erroneously, that the bikes don’t go as high as the woods. His main grouse is dog walkers at loose amongst his trail bikes, albeit on a public bridleway. Being in a mellow mood I forget to ask him who actually owns the land (is it Duchy Land?) and does he have marshals out on trial days to warn the public of the surrounding danger. We part with him saying he will have to have a trip up into the woods where I am showing concern. He has not seen the last of me. This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty after all. Or is it?
Calm down. As I leave ahead of me is one of my favourite Bowland venues, Kitcham Hill Woods on Birkett Fell. All peace and quiet, long may it remain so, but I do wonder who will be looking after our countryside in the future.