I’ve just downloaded this panorama from my phone looking NE from Totridge Fell. All the way from the Trough to Longridge Fell. Those of you familiar with the area will be able to identify all the features.
Last night after a bouldering session at Craig y Longridge I drove up the fell and took in the familiar view over Chipping Vale to the Bowland Hills. In front of me were the Fairsnape, Wolf, Saddle, Burnslack and Totridge Fells. How many times have I photographed this scene? I’ve not been on the easterly of these for several years so there and then I decided on a full traverse of the range today. For every 100 visitors to Fairsnape there is probably only one on Totridge.
I can’t explain why I sat in bed with a couple of coffees delaying my departure. Sloth had taken control and it was with a great deal of difficulty that I finally emerged and started the walk at 11am. By then I realised a full traverse and return of 13 miles or so was impractical and I opted for a shorter 9miles from Saddle End, missing out Fairsnape. The heat of the last few days was diminished by a westerly breeze. Old tracks rise up from Saddle End farm and soon the open moor is reached. A steady metronomic pace is tapped out by my walking poles as I gain ground. There is not a soul in sight.
On the 26th March 1962 three siblings left home and travelled by bus to Chipping and
walked over the fells, maybe to Langden Castle, on their return over Saddle Fell they were caught in a blizzard which resulted in the two brothers losing their lives due to hypothermia. Their sister survived to raise the alarm at Saddle End Farm. There was no Mountain Rescue Team in the area at that time so police and locals searched with BAC loaning a helicopter to help. Shortly after this tragedy two Mountain Rescue teams were formed in the area, the forerunners of Bowland Pennine MRT.
I mention the above because it is thought the boys may have sheltered in a small stone hut. I remember early walks on Saddle Fell in the 70’s the hut being by the track I’m on today, its roof was almost intact. Now it is a pile of stones but with a tragic history which I recollect every time I pass.
Reaching the wild top of Saddle Fell ignoring the track to Fairsnape I turned east at the watershed to follow the fence towards Totridge seen a couple of miles away. This stretch of fell is usually one of the boggiest in the area, I’ve been pulled out of the depths on one occasion, deciding which side of the fence is the least hazardous often means crossing repeatedly without any real advantage. Today however the peaty ground was bone dry and I could just enjoy the scenery without any risk of sinking, the wooden poles placed to give buoyancy in wet conditions totally unneeded. [By the way the best ‘path’ is on the left of the fence.]
The views are far stretching over the Bowland area and all the hills and valleys I’ve been walking recently are identifiable. The Yorkshire Three Peaks are in the hazy background. Difficult to capture on camera.
All I had to do was follow the fence, there is one pond to navigate found and a short section above Whitmore where you leave the fence at a tangent and take off into the peat to regain a wall in a short distance before rising onto Totridge and a final open track to the trig point at 496m. The trig pillar is looking decidedly unstable as the peat below it erodes, it will topple before long.
From the top a small path, not marked on the map, heads NE to drop steeply off the fell towards Mellor Knoll. If the correct line is taken zigzags descend quite pleasantly, not so pleasant ascending. Halfway down today I found a place to sit, eat my sandwiches and contemplate the views over the Dunsop and Hodder valleys. In the distance over Mellor Knoll was a glimpse of Stocks Reservoir I walked around last week and closer at hand, above the Hodder, the tree capped Birkett Fell again climbed recently.
My way back was on a series of bridleways and paths linking remote farms in the limestone country below the fells. Higher Fence Wood, Dinkling Green and Lickhurst. From the latter the track went further back up into the fells than I remember and I speeded up a little as bad weather was coming in.
I used to cycle these ways when my children were getting into mountain biking, I don’t remember these stepping stones by a ford below Burnslack.
A couple of years ago I ended up walking around Stocks Reservoir almost by mistake from Slaidburn and realised too late there was a new path courtesy of NW Water actually crossing the dam wall to complete a shorter circuit. Today along with JD and Sir Hugh we enjoyed this shorter circuit of Stocks Reservoir.
We met up at a lonely spot on the road from Slaidburn to High Bentham. This is one of my favourite routes into Yorkshire, a little further from where we rendezvoused is Cross of Greet Bridge over the infant Hodder and from there the road goes up to a lonely pass between White Hill and Catlow Fell. Then a sweeping descent over the Tatham Fells into High Bentham passing on the way The Great Stone of Fourstones, a glacial erratic, perfect for bouldering on. I digress.
We were soon on the well waymarked trail but with no sign of the reservoir. A flagged path through fields took us down to the Hodder where a footbridge has replaced the original stepping stones. I realise all too late that at the centre of my camera lens is a blob of suntan cream – an amateur mistake which will plague me all day. There is a memorial plaque to a Gil Moorehead for which I can find no information.
Chatting faltered as we climbed the steep slope to the ruins of New House, one of the many farms abandoned when The Fylde Water Board purchased land for water catchment in this valley around the time of WW1. From up here, we had our first sight of Stocks Reservoir which is named after the village of Stocks which disappeared under water when the dam was built and opened officially in 1932 flooding the valley. The adjacent Gisburn Forest appropriated more farming land. The history of the whole enterprise of constructing the reservoir is detailed on a fascinating website Dalehead and Stocks in Bowland.
As we walked down towards the water a trio of fellrunners passed us coming up the hill only to be encountered once again later in the day as they completed their circuit. We agreed that this is a ready-made perfect little run.
There are birdwatching hides and we visited one overlooking the water. Below we could see many geese, cormorants, ducks and gulls but the lists of more proficient ‘twitchers’ were extensive with over 50 species seen some days.
Onwards a new path has been created to avoid the road until we reached the causeway, here mountain bikers swooped out of Gisburn Forest. Immediately we were back on a concessionary path above the reservoir and missed out seeing the resited St. James Chapel. We walked through meadows with good views over the water to the Bowland Fells, little boats carried fishermen to various parts of the Reservoir.
The cafe for fishermen didn’t look inviting so we pushed on.
I can see tree-covered Kitcham Hill on Birkett Fell from my kitchen window, not many people visit it so when Sir Hugh fancied a walk in Bowland I suggested it with a caveat of possible difficult terrain. As a SAS induction course the day went well – gentle stroll, steady ascent, demanding ascent, open warfare, wire entanglements, jungle terrain, interrogation, trespassing, orienteering, bullfighting and more Jungle warfare. That’s a breeze compared to the Duke Of Edinburgh’s Silver aspirants out on the hill at the same time.
It wasn’t meant to be like this, I’d had a hard day previously on Middle Knoll up the road. Today’s hill was lower and there was only a bit of rough ground to reach its summit, after that it would be good footpaths.
I had previously made a cairn of a few stones at the summit on my LONGRIDGE SKYLINE WALK, LSW and I was pleased to find them. We admired the view down to the Fylde and the twisted pine and beech trees around the summit.
Open ground gave easier walking to the plantations but this was deceptive as there has been much wind damage that has caused problems accessing the woods. One of my markers for the LSW was visible on a fallen tree. We had fun getting through wire fencing on the edge of the plantation, this is not a public footpath but soon we were on one going through the woods but it was not much better because of the fallen trees.
I remember vaguely some diversions around Crimpton Farm from previous visits and think I wrote to the appropriate authority to complain. Today the farmer was digging ditches and was keen to bemoan all his problems to us. We escaped and walked through his ‘forbidden’ farmyard wondering how planning permission had been given for an incongruous porch on a Grade 2 listed building below the mullioned loom windows. There is more history to this property – after the reformation a wooden image of Our Lady Of White Well was brought to the isolated Crimpton farm for safety and hence the farm was well known to Roman Catholics as ‘Our Lady Of The Fells’.
We emerged using the existing ‘right of way’ onto the roller coaster of a road heading to Newton. Our views of the three peaks were obscured by low cloud. Lunch was taken in a farm yard with another encounter with an only mildly grumpy farmer.
Now on a FP what could go wrong – well we managed to lose it and spent half an hour staggering through reeds in difficult terrain. At the bottom of the field our correct path made an appearance and then disappeared again, however after we crossed the stream a better path headed towards the busy Birkett Farms. Before we reached them we came across a sheep who had pushed its head through a gate and become trapped by its horns. Some complex manoeuvres were needed to free it. In the same field was a large bull I was keen to avoid.
The day seemed to be ticking away by the time we joined the good lane to Knowlmere Manor with its many chimneys. Delightful countryside, made better in the sunnier pm, above the Hodder took us back to Dunsop Bridge where we had a final battle with vegetation.
The Puddleducks cafe was just opening as we parked up in Dunsop Bridge so coffee was taken on their outside terrace. The plan today was to ascend Middle Knoll, a hill above Whitendale that neither JD or myself recollected visiting. On a recent walk here I was surprised to see how rocky the eastern slopes of Middle Knoll appeared and I was keen to investigate closer at hand a feature on the map marked Blue Scar.
After a gentle stroll up the waterboard access road we took the left fork leading to Brennand Farm but immediately branched off on a path through the heather on the slopes of Middle Knoll. As we gained height we herded a few cattle in front of us. At some point we mutually agreed to start the steep climb up pathless ground to the summit, for about 500ft we staggered laboriously upwards trying to to keep to the easiest ground. This was one of those convex hills where you never see the top, you just have to keep going. The summit at 395m was marked with a few stones. The best views were southwards towards the Fylde Plain.
We crossed a nearby wall and ate our lunches in its shelter. Descending we were soon on the top of Blue Scar a steep shaley feature, a few little rock buttresses stood out but it all appeared loose and dangerous.
Curiosity satisfied we descended to the col but failed to find the path coming up from Brennand and stumbled about in high bracken and reeds for some time. Heath Bedstraw was in profusion. Eventually we came steeply down to Whitendale Farm. From down here Blue Scar was prominent. Those familiar Peak and Northern Footpath Society signs pointed in several directions, we chose the pleasant path leading down above Whitendale River to the luxuriant Costy Clough.
Haven’t much to report since arriving back from France, how can I be jet-lagged after an hour and a half flight.
The weather here has been predictably hot and dry so I’ve been out bouldering on Longridge Fell at three of my favourite crags – Kemple End, Crowshaw and of course Craig Y Longridge. These three give me choices of sun or shade at varying times of the day so I can escape the sun if needed. Up at Kemple I ventured onto Hodder Buttress to solo the easy slabs and arriving at the top I was concerned about some loose flakes above the climbs, I had great fun trundling these onto the quarry floor thus making the routes safer. Over on the main wall I found that I was struggling on some of the traverses I normally cruised, I blamed this on lack of confidence since my enforced layoff. The view over the Ribble Valley this evening was splendid.
At Crowshaw I was completing a topo of the problems to the left of the main buttress. The quarry bowl here is a delight as the heather starts to bloom and the bilberries ripen. I am content on an evening just to sit here and listen to the bird song.
After these two backwaters Craigy is hardcore bouldering, 100m of overhanging rock, with a regular clientele. I have a section at the far end that is less severe and I can do circuits on relatively good jugs to keep fit.
Whilst up on the fell I popped into Cardwell Quarry where climbing is now banned because of unsociable behaviour by some ‘climbers’. I was surprised to see that not too much vegetation has returned in the lean years. I must go and have another word with the farmer to try and restore climbing here.
I was out in the Ribble Valley today and popped into Witches Quarry. A secluded limestone venue where you drive into the field and park conveniently under the crag! The rock was in good condition and I traversed a little and then soloed the amenable Cracklap, I’m sure this used to be VD. Strangely a gooseberry was growing from the start of the crack.
I had no plans for the holiday at my friend’s house [above] in The Lot Valley, France. This was my first time abroad for nearly a year and I struggled to get insurance. I’m feeling as fit as anything but because of the tablets I’m having to take etc no one wants to know me. The insurance I managed covers walking up to 1000m which is ridiculously low – there are road passes in France double that height. For now it doesn’t matter but I’ll take it up with them later.
As usual, I was ‘chef’ for the house and made use of as much fresh produce as possible, the supermarkets here have a huge choice. Lunches were salads and evening meals featured fish quiet often. The weather was hot so nobody was wanting large meals though large quantities of the local wines were drunk. This is the land of the dark ‘Cahors’ Malbec reds but also good dry rosés. Local restaurants were revisited though on several occasions I was happy to miss out and dine alfresco by the pool.
Most mornings before the house was awake I would do a circuit from the garden up into the woods and then down into the secluded Combe de Filhol. I love this route of a couple of miles, I often see deer and there are masses of flowers in the meadow above the combe. Orchids and poppies were prominent at this time of year.
A couple of days before we left a Jay fledgeling was found on the patio, it didn’t appear to get any food from its parents. As I was having breakfast on our last day suddenly another fledgeling dropped from the maple tree, there must have been a nest up there all the time with the adult Jays coming and going in secret. I wonder what happened to the two Jay fledgelings.
I walked the hills behind the house up to the prominent communication tower and thoroughly enjoyed the rollercoaster of a ridge with views over The Lot valley with the villages of Duravel and Puy L’Eveque down below.
The longest day passed and there was a Strawberry Moon.
We were lucky to leave France before a record-breaking heatwave was due to arrive.