If I look back, I do that too much these days, I climbed all the routes in this delightful Bowland limestone quarry way back in the 70s and 80s. That is when I was climbing nearly every day. The routes were scary for the grades, slopey holds, not much gear and loose topouts. All very adventurous – my style of climbing. Our post climbing pints were taken in the Inn at Whitewell, they put up with us back then, I’m not so sure if they would now.
I looked into the quarry whilst passing on a walk a couple of years ago. Apart from a few more trees it didn’t seem much different. I took a blurry phone picture, I remember that my camera proper had packed up earlier that day up on Whins Brow.
In a mad moment a few nights ago I volunteered to help write up this quarry for the upcoming new Lancashire Rock Climbing Guide Book. Today I took a ride out to assess the task. UKC Logbook – Trough of Bowland Quarry (ukclimbing.com)
I found a small space to park right next to the metal gate giving access to the track which heads into the quarry above Losterdale Brook. Not many people have been this way recently. It was just after lunch and the sun was coming round onto the face. The cliff was higher than I remember as I sat and traced the routes up it. Some really good-looking lines. Compact limestone with ramps running across it in places, lines of weakness when climbing. Trees growing on ledges. It is all steeper than it first appears. Areas of white crystalline rock embedded in the limestone, must ask The Rockman what they are. I could see the loose rock at the very top where your heart was beating in your chest as you pulled as carefully as possible to reach the safety of some tree roots. Looking again some of those summit trees seem to have expired, that could make setting up an abseil more difficult. I’ll worry about that next time when I bring a rope.
I couldn’t remember which side of the crag we walked off. Today the forest of head high bracken made investigation more difficult. The left side was rather exposed, and I was very much aware of my presence alone here, I retreated. The right-hand side was easier, despite the bracken, and the top was reached. There are some sturdy trees up there but not in the centre of the crag. As I said I’ll worry about that next time.
From up here I looked out over the valley to the Bowland Hills surrounding The Trough. Down below is an old limekiln – probably the raison d’être for this quarry. Limestone being converted to lime for the land and early mortar. But directly across on the other side were signs of mining, a cave/adit and spoil screes. I must scramble up to that cave one day. What mineral were they looking for? I have just found this useful resource which points to it being lead. Sykes – Northern Mine Research Society (nmrs.org.uk) A mine of information if you will excuse the pun. This page also talks of a mine being driven on the east side of the valley probably under where I was standing. Thinking about it, I suppose there was a clue down the road at Smelt Mill Cottage, home of the Bowland mountain rescue team.
It was then that I heard the crying of a Peregrine falcon. I couldn’t see it, but I was concerned I could be disturbing its nesting site. I retreated once again to the quarry floor. Scanning the crag more carefully I spotted the pile of sticks on a ledge which is typical of a Peregrine’s nest. Normally the young fledge in early July. I shouldn’t be here, I leave as soon as possible, let’s give them another couple of weeks or so.
I couldn’t resist stopping at Burholme Bridge on the drive home for that classic view along the River Hodder into the heart of Bowland.
I’m left wondering about the quarry – have I bitten off more than I can chew? Think I will need some help and encouragement.