The heat goes on, we somehow have avoided the thunderstorms rattling around the North West. Lethargy is the order of the day. But there is a breeze from the east, so some solace may be found up on the far end of Longridge Fell. Not again I hear you say that’s the third time in a week up there, but I’ve approached from three different but well-used directions. The lethargy prevents me going farther afield and the heat limits my delicate body’s distance and exertion. And anyhow I like my local fell.
When I moved to Longridge over 50 years ago few people used the fell for recreation. The forest tracks were constructed, but I don’t think the public were encouraged onto the land. I remember the spruce trees looked relatively young, as was I at the time. A few public footpaths criss-crossed the once open fell sides which must have been planted up in the late 60s to 70s. The 7th Edition, One inch to the mile, map of 1969 shows only a few scattered plantations with no forestry tracks. There was a way up from Jeffry (Jeffrey) Hill to the trig point, then 1148 feet (now350 m) but few went farther along the ridge. This involved for the most part delicate, muddy and pathless walking between the young trees.
Compare with the modern map.
Over the years, thanks to intrepid walkers, a path developed along the ridge from the trig point all the way to Kemple End where the fell drops steeply to the Hodder. This was mainly in the new forest planting and could be very muddy in the winter. Mountain Bikers started using the forestry tracks and signage eventually appeared on the public right of ways. Old walls started to crumble but were still good orientation points. It has now become a popular walking and cycling destination. But come full circle and some areas are being harvested and the devastation that that brings can often wipe out the unofficial paths that had developed. On top of that recent storms have brought down many trees and affected paths can be difficult or impossible to follow. Clearance is for some reason slow paced.
My planned walk today would complete a trilogy of routes up Longridge Fell, from the West, South and now East. I would be walking some of those ‘unofficial’ paths and encountering both forestry and storm damage.
From the rough parking at Kemple End the main forest road traverses the fell, but I want to see how the little path in the trees to the north had survived. Starting on the left, SD 689406, down the road from the parking. The path looks well-used and the few trees that had blown down seem to have been cleared, all very promising. Buzzards circle overhead and blue butterflies flit around my feet. There is not much breeze although most of the time I’m in the shade. Steady progress uphill. At the first junction I know I could go left and regain the main forest road, but I go right to keep to the ridge. The path narrows and is enclosed in the trees, I recognise familiar landmarks. Before long though it comes up against some forestry work from a couple of years ago, a large area of felled trees on the northern scarp. People have escaped back left to the forest road. and that’s what I do. After 200 m on that road I spot an orange arrow on a tree at the edge of the destruction, is this a way back to the original path? After some haphazard wandering through orange dotted trees I give up and escape into the felled area onto a track of sorts used by logging vehicles. It leads me in the right direction westwards close to where the old path ran and if people use it will become an established way. Somewhere at the end where it joins with a forest road, more felling here, used to be a viewpoint (Sam’s View, I never found out who Sam was) but with new growth on the scarp it is no more. All in all a right mess. The latest OS map no longer tells the truth.
I don’t feel like tackling the still obstructed way up to the trig point so simply follow an established path down to the forest road. I turn left and saunter back down to the car with the bulk of Pendle ahead.
Last year there was a good crop of orchids along here but nothing to show at present. The Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Mouse-ear Hawkweed and ‘Fox and Cubs’ are all flowering. What delightful traditional countryside names.
You may wonder why I’ve not yet included a route onto the fell from the north, well have a look at those contours. Longridge Fell is a ‘cuesta’ with a steep escarpment to the north and a gentle slope to the south. I have come up from the north many times but any ascent at the moment would be punishing in the heat. I will leave it to you to plan your own way up those footpaths from the Chipping side.
I fear for the fells as we have had no rain for weeks. One careless cigarette or a disposable barbecue, the weapon of choice for moorland fires, and we will be loosing a valuable habitat once more. Go careful out there.