Category Archives: Bowland Fells.

KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Beacon Fell.

Beacon Fell, Brock Bottoms and Kemple End.

It’s the summer holidays and I’m entertaining my youngest grandson for a couple of days, that’s all he has in his busy diary. I think of some local walks that will keep him interested and not be overdemanding. When I was his age, 11years, I could cover 20 miles no problem across rough moorland, alone and while smoking a few Woodbines.  Maybe not, but I think the generations have softened the Human Spirit. While he stays with me there is an unplugged mentality regarding mobile devices, I try to explain that nothing will happen whilst he is off line. He is not convinced.

He arrives with his stepmother, both keen to explore the local countryside. I’ve devised a route up onto Beacon Fell that is interesting, short and easy. They seem happy with it as we arrive at the cafe in time for lunch. On the way we passed Barnsfold Reservoir where his great grandad used to fish and paint piscatorial images for the fellow fishermen. I’ve often wondered what happened to those skilled canvases.  We marvelled at the size of two Buzzards wheeling overhead and we wondered about unusual tree fungi, a white bracket on a beech tree which I’ve been unable to identify.

We walked past a farm where the family have diversified into a hair salon what was previously a cowshed, good on them.

We passed more fishing lakes this time part of a recreational complex with holiday chalets. The original farm, Wood Fold, is grade II listed but has been submerged by ancillary housing.  I never realised how much-hidden developments there were in the area.  There was only a minor footpath diversion through this development.

Onwards, with grandson navigating, we followed my route of the other day through Crombleholme Fold and up the fields and into the woods to the honey spot of Beacon Fell.

All smiles.

We were probably the only people that had walked here, all be it only a  couple of miles. A trio of elderly cyclists arrived and clattered into the cafe, they had come through the hills from Lancaster. We enjoyed soup and sandwiches. On our way back we had time for an attempt at climbing the new snake from tail to head and then we were out of the woods and back at the car. There were some new wood carvings of leafy Green men, a pre-Christian symbol. Incidentally, there is a Green Man Pub in nearby Inglewwhite.

I hope that a few navigational skills have been absorbed.

The afternoon was spent pruning bushes in my garden and the more exciting shredding of those branches which provided lots of laughs. A competitive game of boules anticipated our imminent family trip to France.

Refreshed by Thursday morning our next jaunt was to Brock Bottoms just below Beacon Fell. We were one of the first cars parked up in the popular picnic spot.  It is years since I’ve been along this stretch of the River Brock. Memories of early forages with my own young children keep coming back. The river is low, we see no kingfishers or dippers which I was hoping for.

The highlight of this walk was going to be Brock Mill but alas time has taken its toll on the ruins of the mill. Where there had been substantial buildings there were only stones with little evidence of the mill race, waterwheel or the mill itself.

Brock Mill was once a thriving water-driven cotton spinning mill with up to twenty cottages in the valley for the workers.  The mill was probably built in the 1790s. After a chequered history and two reincarnations as a roller making factory, and then a file making factory the mill finally closed in the 1930s. For some time the ground floor of the mill operated as a café, whilst the top floor was used for dancing on Saturday nights!

It took some imagination to see the ruins of the cottages.

Slightly disappointed we retraced our steps. Having given my grandson a lecture on watermills I drove back via Chipping where there is a water wheel attached to a house, a former corn mill and then converted to a restaurant with the wheel turning.

I cut the lawn whilst he caught up on ‘social media’, he hates it when I call it ‘antisocial media’

The weather remained sunny and dry and the plan for the afternoon was some bouldering up on Longridge Fell. Again keeping it low key I bypassed the tough Craig Y Longridge and settled for Kemple End. We dropped into the secluded heather bowl that is the old quarry. We were out of the sun and spent a couple of hours trying some of the easier problems. He realised that outdoor climbing is so different to the climbing walls he has been visiting. At the end of the session, I’m not convinced I’ve converted him into a proper climber. I was so busy spotting him that I didn’t take any photos – next time.

I don’t know who was most tired by the time his father came to take him home. See you in France.

BEACON FELL FOR LUNCH!

I can see the tree-covered summit of Beacon Fell from home [photo above], only just as new houses spring up. Last night I thought it a good idea to walk from home up to Beacon Fell, have lunch in their excellent cafe and walk home again, The Grand Old Duke of York comes to mind.

This is a regular walk and I don’t need a map, which is fortuitous as I didn’t take one.  I rely on my phone for local mapping. This route to Beacon Fell is the one I use for the start of my Longridge Skyline Walk, LSW.  I faffed about this morning with various things, one of which was my camera’s lens cover which keeps getting stuck. WD 40 may not have been the best idea but I tried it and realised that it would take some time to clear itself. So I leave the camera at home and use my phone for pictures.  It was 11am when I left my house and bumped into a neighbour. He is used to my eccentricities and enquired where I was going  – “Beacon Fell for lunch”  “Oh!” was all he could say.

The fields were high in summer growth and at every stile I was faced with a barrier of nettles, brambles, Balsam and that sticky plant. I spent a lot of time bashing down the undergrowth. Shorts were not the best idea.  I was getting nowhere and becoming increasingly hot and sweaty.

Worse was to come when I reached what were previously open fields but now were transformed into parcels of equestrian land, paddocks I suppose, by electric fences. Large fields with footpaths and open access were now a no-go zone.  I was fuming at the lack of thought for us humble walkers. This was more like an obstacle course than a rural wander. After limbo dancing under some live electric fences, I started to become rebellious detaching the wire where I could, they were live! Knowing I was on a Right of Way  I ploughed through, Sir Hugh will understand. The last obstacle to a bridge was dealt with and I was on someone else’s land. On a serious note, I will be reporting this blatant obstruction of footpaths to Lancs County Council once the dust has settled using their excellent MARIO web site.

By the time I reached the fishing lakes at Horns Reservoir I was well behind schedule. I thought of curtailing the day, but no my obstinacy carried me forward. Exiting the field by the narrow Right of Way was impossible but I knew a way around. Later exchanging pleasantries with the landowner I couldn’t come to say “why don’t you clear the footpath?”  Writing this now I feel I should ride out there tomorrow and ask him.

Things improved and I made good progress through well-known fields. Lovely green grass hid a hare which set off at speed when I approached.  I was impressed at a stile where not only was the correct signage clear but there was also a small map showing the Rights of Way in the surrounding area. Brilliant. I can never understand why some farmers make it difficult to cross their land – why not sign the way and be done with us.

So much more helpful than ….A barn at Whinneyclough had some unusual, obviously historic, features and I was caught trying to get some close-up photos. Note the finials on the roof, the covered mullioned window and the dated door. The owner seemed insensible to my curiosity. The nearby farmhouse is also of architectural interest but was out of bounds.

On through the golf course where the trees have matured in the years I’ve been coming here. Nobody seemed to be playing at the moment. There were signs indicating ‘footgolf’ –  whatever next.

The diversion around Fir Trees Farm seems less irritating as the years go by. I still have no faith in the Planning  Authorities who allow it. The brick fronted farmhouse is Grade II listed.

Well trodden paths through Higher Barker and the burgeoning complex at the former  Cross Keys Inn.  When I first moved to this area this was a favourite place to drink, pre breathalysers, with the beer being served in the farm parlour. The way onwards is always boggy, you will be cursing me if following this route. But now Beacon Fell is there above. A couple of awkward fields and then a long traverse of green pasture brings me out on the road at Crombleholme where there is an impressive C17th house, today splendid with its colourful garden.

Up to the fields and into the woods and suddenly I’m in the main carpark of Beacon Fell. There are people everywhere enjoying the summer sunshine. I present myself at the cafe counter sweaty and dishevelled, probably the only person to arrive here under his own steam. The tea and sandwiches are perfect as I sit at one of the outside tables and watch humanity. Curiously I didn’t take any photos, battery running low but this what it was like.

Aa I didn’t visit the summit, it was all downhill to home. Away from the crowds the paths are eerily quiet. Concessionary paths have been established down to Carwags where a quiet road takes you onwards. Views open to Parlick behind and to Pendle and Longridge Fell ahead. by now my phone was running out of juice hence few photos and no map to follow. An even more rural lane with grass down the middle comes out at Loud Higher Bridge.

I follow the infant River Loud through fields some of which may be trespassing, no map remember, but I eventually come out at a deserted Loudscales Farm. I  know the way home from here. up the lane to the road and down to a junction of paths. Take the middle one up to Withinreap Farm, pass the ‘figure of eight’ ponds and arrive at Lancaster Farm where fields lead to Higher House Farm. From here there are more views to Beacon Fell, the Bowland Fells.

The football match down the road is notable for its spectators’ foul language drifting across the town. Welcome home. It is five o’clock when I turn down my road with a knowing nod to that neighbour.

*****

 

 

 

 

A RURAL RAMBLE FROM BASHALL EAVES.

28 years ago I remember a footpath above the River Hodder coming to an abrupt stop where a bridge was falling down. My son Chris and I were on a backpacking trip around the old Lancashire boundary. We had left Mossley, East of Manchester, and worked our way through high Pennine country, Pendle, Ribble Valley and now we were heading north through Bowland towards Arnside. After getting through the no access, closed and danger barriers we balanced precariously across crumbling masonry high above a stream and carried on our way. Do I have a photo somewhere of that day?  I often wondered what happened to that bridge above Mill Brook. Today I set off to find out.

I parked next to the village hall in Bashall Eaves and set off along a farm track to Mason Green Farm. This turned out to be one of those almost industrial sized complexes. By chance I found a way around it and across fields, full of cows, in the right direction towards Agden Farm which seemed to be a Land Rover hospital. Numerous varieties of the marque were lined up in various states of repair, from a barn there were sounds of restoration.

The overgrown path dropped into a gully, the first of many today, and climbed out steeply on recently installed steps. Somebody must come here. I was now in pastures surrounded by all the familiar fells, Pendle, Longridge Fell and the Fairsnape group. I disturbed a few deer as I dropped into the next gully in Paper Mill Woods. This steep and rather slippery descent took me onto the banks of the River Hodder, full from the last few days’ rain. This is about the only access to the Hodder between Doeford Bridge upstream to Higher Hodder Bridge below. This makes me think that I must be on The Hodder Way a route devised by Clitheroe Ramblers and one I walked in recent times – I have no recollection of this demanding stage.  There was no bridge across the stream but it was no problem to hop across.

Climbing away from the river I pass three magnificent oaks. In the next field of long grass, my only objective is an ash tree on the horizon. Then it is down once more into woods and a difficult descent of a bluff to reach that bridge from years ago, now converted to a wooden structure spanning the stone abutments. There are references to Roman times but I think that is unlikely even though they passed by quite closely. This is a deep ravine, Mill Brook, and the new wooden bridge, rebuilt in 1997, is more impressive than in the photo.

A vague path climbed up through the woods to emerge into fields with open views to the fells. These were crossed and a final dip overcome to reach a track which follows a Roman road, Ribchester to Kirkby Lonsdale. It had taken me two hours to cover three miles and I was ready for a break and a snack.

Onwards I followed the lane to Lees House Farm, now supporting several developments. It’s called diversification. Steep paths lead down to a stream, Mill Brook once again.  Coming up the other side into an overgrown field was not easy if there was a path I didn’t find it.

From here to Micklehurst Farm was straightforward though I managed to herd a lot of sheep in front of me. This morning it had been all cows and now sheep everywhere. Barking dogs, thankfully chained, followed my progress through the farmyard. I’ve passed the road end to Micklehurst Farm many times, I think they are distant relations,  I never realised how far off the road the are.

On the corner is one of the entrances to Browsholme Hall, South Lodge, I sneaked a photo of the gatehouse and cottage.

Now I was onto little-used roads through woodlands some of which are described as nature reserves. I met a couple leisurely ambling down the lane, they had been out birdwatching.

Further on an old Alvis Speed was parked up. It was in fantastic condition. The owner working in a field nearby was obviously proud of the vehicle,1932,  – “all original bodywork”. He admitted that the engine wasn’t firing correctly, hence the bonnet was up for tinkering.

I continued down the lane to reach Saddle Bridge which I mentioned in a recent post.  It is always good to look at things from a different angle and I can’t resist a photo of a packhorse bridge.

Returning back up the path, Rugglesmire is passed, I trespassed a little to try and see the grade II farmhouse.

Into the hamlet of Bashall Eaves, a few cottages with evocative names – The Old School House, The Vicarage, The Old Forge, The Post Office etc.

The Old Forge.

There is also an old Lancashire Cheese press.

Just down the lane is The Red Pump, now a thriving inn/restaurant but it has a dark history. In 1934 a farmer, Jim Douglas, was shot whilst walking home from the pub and died later of his wounds. Investigations were hampered by a “wall of silence” from the villagers and the mystery has never been solved. There is talk of ghosts…..

I usually show a map of my wanderings below and I would suggest that any local readers of my posts try this unknown area. The first half of the walk is particularly scenic and interesting – the best of rural Lancashire, and the paths could with a bit more footfall.

*****

 

TOTRIDGE FELL, BOWLAND.

 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.

Saddle End Farm and fell.

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.

Up here in this bleak wilderness one plant brightened up the peat bogs – the yellow starry flowered Bog Asphodel.

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.

Over Mellor Knoll to Stocks and Yorkshire.

Birkett Fell, Waddington Fell and distant Pendle.                                                       

I dropped down to the fell wall and joined the bridleway coming from Hareden which goes into woods of beech and chestnut where I met the first people of the day, three gents enjoying the area.

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.

Lickhurst Farm.

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.

I arrived back at the car just as the rain did, my dilatory start almost catching me out.

*****

 

STOCKS RESERVOIR WALK.

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.

Our remote car park.

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.

The path was varied with sections of woodland and open meadows. The latter were full of flowers at this time of year, orchids, foxgloves and many varieties of grasses.

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.

Down at the main car park are the remains of St. James Church which was demolished and rebuilt on higher ground. We speculated on the origin of a nearby spectacular Weeping Beech.

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.

At the dam we crossed over the Hodder culvert and had lunch sat on top of the dam embankment watching fishermen cast into the waters with the occasional catch of rainbow trout.

The cafe for fishermen didn’t look inviting so we pushed on.

We were now walking on an old railway line up to a quarry where stone was supplied to the dam construction team.

We were soon back at the cars ready for a slow journey home…

*****

 

 

 

 

BIRKETT FELL, A BOWLAND JEWEL.

 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.

The stroll by the Hodder was as pleasant as always.

The path alongside Fielding Clough was much drier than usual and then we branched off into tussocky reedy ground and steadily made our way up Birkett Fell and into the trees on Kitcham Hill, 283m.

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’.

The below picture shows Crimpton Farm with its unnecessarily long alternative route in red, we stuck to the ROW in blue.

 

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.

I felt I had to treat Sir Hugh to a drink in the Puddleducks Cafe.

*****