I’m running out of titles for my series of walks in Bowland as set out by Mark Sutcliffe in his Walking In Lancashire book. He has certainly covered the area well. Highest, Best of, Heart of, and today Remote or even the Remotest… How many of you have been to Wolfhole Crag or Whitendale Hanging Crags? This is a long post I’m afraid – it was a long day.
I enjoy the familiar drive into the hills with the roof down. Along the Hodder Valley; farmers busy silage cutting in the fields; over the Roman road with views to Ingleborough; down to picturesque Newton; along to stately Slaidburn and up Woodhouse Lane to my parking place just before the fell gate. I say my parking place as it was a regular spot when we were developing the bouldering potential of Croasdale’s Bullstones all those years ago. Not many drive up this far, but Mark mentions the single space, there is a little more back down the lane.
The hike up the rough Hornby Road, a Roman Road again, (aka Salter Fell Track) has been done dozens of times and I pass familiar landmarks. The war memorial to airmen lost on these fells; the ancient sheep folds and bothy down in Croasdale where I have stayed with my grandson; the culvert where one can still see the Roman workmanship; the large quarry where the peregrines nest; the bridge where the road has been saved from sliding into the valley; the Tercet stone demarking the Lancashire Witches fateful route to the assizes in Lancaster; over to the right the bouldering playground of Bullstones and later the vague track dropping into upper wild Whitendale.
Along here somewhere I meet two RSPB workers checking on nesting Hen Harriers. It is good the birds have returned and let’s hope more survive the persecution by the shooting fraternity this year. No photos and as they say on the news “their anonymity and location have been protected” The road goes on over the watershed.
After four miles I leave the road for another four miles of mostly trackless and waterlogged ground. Mark says “the next stretch is very boggy and needs careful negotiation” Go no farther if you are unsure or if the weather is bad. This is remote country with no easy escape routes. My walking poles disappear into the mire quickly followed by my boots. Jack be nimble. It is not so bad – I survived. There is beauty there if you look closely.
If I close my eyes I could be at the seaside, the sound of gulls is everywhere. I think they are Herring Gulls, a large colony exists up here. I try for a video, more for the sounds than the fleeting fly overs. They are becoming more aggressive, dive-bombing me. I look down and there below my feet is a scrape of a nest with three eggs. Better move on taking extra care where I place my feet.
It doesn’t take much to persuade me to take the ‘optional’ diversion to Wolfhole Crag half a mile away. One wouldn’t come this far in good weather and not go to the highest point. There is a trig point, 527 m, and also an interesting collection of gritstone boulders. I can’t resist a few simple boulder problems, keep them simple as you don’t want to break an ankle up here. The longer routes look fearsome. Somewhere there is a shallow cave in the rocks – the original wolf hole.
A good place to eat my sandwich, wish that had been two as the day panned out. All around – The Lakes, Yorkshire Three Peaks and most of East Lancashire. Pendle is always visible. All a little hazy in today’s heat.
Walking back down the fence line, no navigation needed, is not easy because of more bogs. Maybe it is better on the other side, No it isn’t I tried. White Crag is nothing but a few boulders. Whitendale Hanging Stones are not much bigger. But according to “the gravitational method to establish Britain’s centre of gravity OS calculated that the geographical centre of the British Isles, including Islands, lies at SD 6419 5654“ virtually where I’m stood. I’m too weary to take it in. In fact as I drop down very steeply I’m just too pleased to see the small tarn on the col between Brennand and Whitendale. The walls and fences aren’t too easy to negotiate. I lose even more height as I descend to the Duchy farm at Whitendale where my route ahead climbs back up zigzags for 800ft onto Dunsop Fell.
Small mammal traps remind me I’m on shooting lands, the hunting class have some barbaric practices.
I collapse onto a wall at the farm, nobody is about, I’m even wondering if I should phone my son for a cop-out evacuation, but a drink and a banana fortify me for the final stage. Thankfully once back on a stony trail my steps become stronger, and I push on up. The trail disappears into peat, but there are some posts and cairns to guide me to Dunsop Head, a vague col with a wall, gate and another of those crafted signs. Looking at the map and the terrain I realise I’ve never been on Baston Fell to the north, today is not the time to visit. Let’s just get down.
Go east across more bog. By the time Stocks Reservoir comes into view you are almost home and dry, although your feet are probably wet by now. Eventually the bridleway becomes more visible as a sunken way and the airmen’s memorial appears. There is my car down the lane with Pendle still watching over us. Seven hours of remote walking, one to talk about in the pub later.