Category Archives: Bowland Fells.

THREE AGAINST ALI – AROUND BLEASDALE.

Most of the photos taken on my phone today are blurred. I was struggling to stand up in a 40-50mph gale, trying to keep my hood on as well as pointing the phone in the general direction of companions Sir Hugh and JD who couldn’t stand up either. After what I said in my last post about choosing the fine days to venture out, especially in the hills, today’s choice was obviously dubious in view of the forecast above. However unsteady my companions appear they have a resolution and resistance to be celebrated, we marched into the eye of the storm named Ali without a flicker of doubt.

Up and over the prominent steep Parlick along the ridge to the highest point of Fairsnape. So far so good, breezy but clear views. A newly flagged path soon disappears as we head into the peat bogs and evasive action is often taken to avoid the worst mires on the ridge. At the lowest point a vague path disappears down Fiendsdale towards Langden Castle, I think we’ll leave that adventure to another day. Our route westwards was again extravagantly flagged for some distance down the rake towards the bowl of Bleasdale. You could see the rain coming in on the storm and it hit us hard for the next hour, the wind was excessive straight at us and the rain in the air stinging on the face. Winter conditions within minutes and a good test for the waterproofs. It seemed a long way down. The usual erudite conversation from my companions was missing as we disappeared into our own worlds of survival. Salvation arrived in the valley as the worst of the rain passed, we could cope with the wind. We had more difficulty coping with some of the precarious stiles en route, Sir Hugh has two artificial knees and wasn’t happy with the contortions necessary to overcome them. Some situations when he was mid stride but hooked up to barbed wire became a mixture of uncontrollable laughter and panic as to his survival. We made it to Bleasdale church where a sheltered bench was gratefully used for sandwiches.

Vague paths across the bowl of Bleasdale led us to Blindhurst Farm through the usual stinking slurry and an outstanding farmhouse amongst the trash.

Despite our misguided attempts to reclimb Parlick we found some traversing sheep ‘tracks’ back to the car. The wind increased in intensity for our finale just to prove a point.

Not unsurprisingly we were the only car parked up.

Remind me next time to forge ahead and take some pictures from the front!

A day not to be missed.

*****

The map below is doubly important today, not only to show you the reader our whereabouts but also to give Sir Hugh an idea of where he had been.

MY DAILY WALK, [well almost daily].

The weather has not been good since my return from France, I feel Autumn is upon us.

It’s noticeable how often I comment on the state of the weather at the start of a post. Is that a British trait, am I obsessed with the climate or does it just reflect the close connection of conditions with my pastimes?  I remember when I was younger and outdoor time at a weekend was precious we would sally forth on walks or climbs whatever the weather. That would result in a fair share of days with no views and a good soaking on the hill or gripping climbs on cold slippery wet rock. Many of those occasions are vivid in my memory, proof of the importance to me of outdoor adventures and the companionships they bring. Character building was a phrase used. Now I take more heed of the forecast and try to choose the better days for my enjoyment or more likely head abroad to avoid the worst of our winter weather.

I’ve rambled off the subject.  I intend, now I’m free of the PMR stiffness, to  do a regular local walk most days to build up my fitness once again. How often have I said that? I have a 4mile circuit on my doorstep that suffices. Not only does one get some healthy exercise but also some physic benefits thrown in.  There are countless literary quotations extolling the virtues of walking, one of the simplest  –  “I have two doctors: my left leg and my right leg.”  G M Trevelyan.

I complain a lot, and will continue to do so, about the housing developments in Longridge destroying the character of the town but I’m still able to do the walk above from the house into the country. Why drive anywhere in mixed weather when a walk can be accomplished from home.   A stroll down the road takes me past the cricket ground where today there was a match which I can stand and watch for a few overs. There’s something special about village cricket which makes it almost hypnotic to engage in, I think it is something to do with the enthusiasm of the players and the gentle clapping of the handful of spectators. Long may it be so. The lane I usually take up onto the fell gives a lovely view back across Chipping Vale to the Bowland Hills. The view is different with the seasons but gives a sense of space and nature within half a mile of leaving home. Today this was heightened by a pair of Buzzards wheeling and mewing above me. Time just goes by whilst you stand and watch. A glance over the reservoir at any other bird life – usually ducks and grebe. And a glance into Craig Y Longridge to see if anyone I know is climbing, not today with the damp conditions. My return down the town’s main street is more mundane but gives the opportunity for social engagement and grocery shopping.

A perfect little circuit, I’m off to do it again today when things will be different.

*****

 

DEEPER INTO CHIPPING VALE.

The Lazy Loud River.

There was a beautiful sunrise today which heralded good weather to come.

I’d arranged with JD to continue our intimate exploration of Chipping Vale by following as close as possible the little River Loud on its way to join the Hodder. My route was ambitious as from previous experience I know some of these paths are rarely walked. I was hoping for an easy day because of my recent stiffness and should have been concerned with the first stile we encountered off the road, awkward and overgrown. To be honest we never really found a convincing path through the fields to the limestone Knainsley Quarry and once we were in its extensive area compass work was needed to get out. We emerged onto a lane bounded by expensive property conversions, lots of Range Rovers – that sort of place.

The next stile was impossible to negotiate, guarded by brambles and sloes, [reported to the authorities] but fortunately a gate took us into the same field to link up with a path that kept coming to more awkward overgrown stiles, but we slowly made progress to emerge probably on the wrong drive way at Loud Carr Side. All along this stretch we had wonderful views of the Bowland Fells to the north. Their road led us to Gibbon Bridge over the Loud. A substantial stile gave access to the river bank  here populated with Himalayan Balsam and more worryingly Japanese Knotweed, The river is small and flows along at a snail’s pace. Pushing on through the vegetation we made progress down stream, despite acrobatic stiles, to the stepping-stones  across the river. A few days ago there would have been little water here after the drought but we have had a lot of rain since and our crossing was a little tricky as some of the stones were submerged. A gentler stretch through fields and we emerged at Loud Mythom Bridge. What are these  iridescent beetles ‘feeding’ on dock leaves?  We walked on to Doeford Bridge where the Loud joins the much wider Hodder. A fisherman was casting in the Hodder below, a popular fishing river. We ate lunch at the bridge and watched many cyclists coming through from  the Trough of Bowland, and also speeding motorists having close shaves on the bends.

The Loud joining the Hodder just above Doeford Bridge.

We had considered continuing across the stepping-stones at  Stakes Farm but walkers coming in the opposite direction confirmed that they were impossible with missing stones and high water which is a regular problem. So we backtracked up the lane and onto a track heading for Greenlands, as we walked through the farmyard a, fortunately chained, dog leapt out of its kennel narrowly missing JD. That raised our heart rates.  More poor tracks and awkward stiles eventually brought us back to Gibbon Bridge. Cars were arriving for a wedding reception at the hotel. We didn’t have the heart to find the footpath through their grounds and spent the next half-hour or so lost in the fields which host the annual Chipping Steam Fair every May. Today turned out to be the Chipping Show held in fields on the edge of the village and we could hear loudspeaker announcements in the distance. The day was perfect for the show. From this side of the Loud we now had uninterrupted views south to Longridge Fell. A complicated series of fields, all thankfully well signed, took us from Pale Farm to the road and back over the Loud Lower Bridge to our car. We had achieved our idea of following the Loud but had found the walking difficult, in my condition, with overgrown paths and broken or blocked stiles.

*****

DEEP IN CHIPPING VALE.

One of the tags for my blog is ‘Chipping Vale’  and its used quite often.   I’m often looking down into this valley as it lies between Longridge Fell and the Bowland Fells. I’m not sure whether this is an official designation or a figment of my imagination. There is no mention on the OS maps, basically I’m referring to the Loud River catchment area which arises in the hills near Beacon Fell and meanders under Chipping into the Hodder at Doeford Bridge. Well today we’ll explore into this valley.

Chipping Vale from Longridge Fell.

There are several  points of interest – historic houses, ancient bridleways and limestone quarries. I’ve a book about limestone kilns and quarries in the area which highlights Arbour Quarry at Thornley as a major commercial  site so I was keen to revisit it.

Since my trip up the NE coast of Scotland I’ve hit a problem – I suddenly overnight painfully stiffened up in my shoulders and thighs. After some prognostication I presented myself to my GP – Polymyalgia Rheumatica [PMR] was his initial diagnosis  but the blood tests were equivocal. Give it another week and nothing much has changed, painful stiffness and similar bloods. I’m limiting myself to gentle walks around the village later in the day when I’m less stiff.

To hell with it I’m going for a longer walk and phone JD for companion, he’s strong enough to carry me if things become difficult.

So our venture into Chipping Vale commences. Field tracks out of Longridge are taken past ponds, where my lads used to fish for tench, to Gill Bridge over the River Loud, more of a stream than a river, where they had tickled unsuccessfully for trout. Private roads through the Blackmoss Estate formerly Lord Derby’s domain took us past converted barns and gentrified houses as is the norm around here. Indistinct field paths which seemed little walked brought us into the farmyard of Hesketh End a grade one listed C17th house.  The sandstone house has lovely mullioned windows and is noted for latin inscriptions on the exterior telling of historic incidents.

Chipping Vale with Longridge Fell in the background.

Hesketh End.

A nearby  property was ruinous 20 years ago and is now a substantial dwelling. We came out onto the road close to the recently closed Dog and Partridge, many pubs are capitulating in rural surroundings. From here we crossed the River Loud by a wooden footbridge. The banks of the river were heavily overgrown with Himalayan Balsam, its scent pervading the area. The low-lying meadows here are frequently flooded in the winter months when our track would be under water. We were heading for the extensive Arbour quarry, a source of limestone into the early C 20th. Lime was important to the farmers for improving their land. All that remains now are grassed over ridges and ponds, the latter having a large duck population. Sitting on a limestone outcrop for lunch we were covered with little black flies which fortunately were of the nonbiting variety. We couldn’t identify them but they were similar to ones I called Thunder Flies, it was certainly very humid today. There was wild mint growing  everywhere giving a stong aroma and attracting Painted Lady butterflies. I had vague memories of a large limekiln somewhere here but we couldn’t find it today in all the summer growth. There is a photo in my book of it operational.

Crossing to the other side of the valley we climbed a lane to reach farms strung along the hillside of Longridge Fell on roughly the 150m contour. I’ve often speculated this may be the spring line. Paths and lanes connect these properties and is known to some locals as ‘The Posties Track’. Some of the houses are still honest working farms but more and more are renovated as desirable properties, I must admit they all have superb views over Chipping Vale towards the Bowland Fells. We reentered Longridge on the old railway line that ran along to stone quarries. The gentle walking was no problem but my stiffness made getting over the numerous stiles comical.

*****

BIVI ON LONGRIDGE FELL.

A unique experience.

I’ve been meaning to sleep up on Longridge Fell during this good weather but other things keep getting in the way. Made an effort last night before I disappear off to Scotland and arranging a late evening lift up the road was a great help. So at about 8.45pm I set off on the familiar track to the trig point. A few stragglers were wandering back down to the carpark and they wished me well. A few sheep looked at me strangely. The sun was already low and would go behind the Bowland Fells soon. I wasn’t going to see the sun setting over the sea at this time of year from up here, may have to have a night up on Fairsnape soon for that which would complete my trio of local fell bivis – including Beacon Fell.  [Memo to myself – better sleeping bag, camera as opposed to phone and a tripod.]  By the time I reached the top the sky was changing and the sun disappearing, I sat and watched with the three peaks clear to the east. A kestrel hovered right above me but soon flew off into the gloom leaving nothing but silence.

There was a cool breeze blowing from the north so I decided to go over the wall for a sheltered bivi spot and luckily found an almost level site yards from the trig point. I heard deer barking but none appeared. I was probably asleep by 10 but woke about one feeling decidedly chilly. I had my lightest sleeping bag and no spare clothes so couldn’t do much about it. There is little light pollution up here, a few lights down in Chipping, so the stars were clear, the moon was almost full. The next time I woke, about 4.45am, the sky was colouring over Yorkshire so I sat up and watched the changing display until the sun was fully up, 5.30am.  A lot of misty patches hung in the fields below and there was heavy condensation on my bivy bag suggesting the temperature had dropped considerably in the night. I managed an hour or so fitful sleep before packing up and walking home to the village just as it was coming to life. Another fine summer’s day in prospect highlighted by my night on the fell.

*****

THE HEAT GOES ON.

Beacon Hill, Grindleton Fell.

I’ve just eaten a punnet of cherries with a beer whilst watching Belgium beat Brazil in a World Cup  game . The lazy days of this summer are passing by and now we have Wimbledon and The Tour de France to distract us.

 The pieman and I met up at Chatburn earlier today. I was glad we made the effort. At one point when we were aimlessly wandering around in a field in the midday sun I questioned our sanity. We had descended from up high on Grindleton Fell and were aiming for the River Ribble but fences and obstructions were in our way giving rise to some scribbles on my route map below.

We had started off on an old lane out of Chatburn which when face to face with a massive limestone quarry took us down to the Ribble and along a concessionary path to the bridge. On the outskirts of Grindelton, a village worth exploring , we picked up a rising bridleway which passed by some interesting houses – Victorian Green Banks, Georgian White Hall and spacious and pretentious Cob House. The old Yorkshire expression ‘where there’s muck there’s brass’ came to mind as we speculated on who lived in these expensive properties. Then we were in the rough country above an old abandoned yet evocative farm.

We skirted the forest and ended up on the rarely visited Beacon Hill with a trig point at 305m, high enough for me today. We took the opportunity to relax, eat lunch and look at the views over the wooded Ribble Valley to Pendle and northwards towards the ‘Three Peaks’. A group of teenagers were struggling up the hill towards us, all heavily laden and no doubt on a DofE course. The ones at the front were chatty but the tailenders obviously had no desire to be where they were.

Hazy Pendle.

We passed through more desirable properties, thankfully guarded by docile dogs, before our episode of being lost, hot and bothered. Soon we were on The Ribble Way which in these parts upstream has been cruelly diverted away from the river by landowners with angling interests. We enjoyed our stretch of the river however as we headed back to Grindleton bridge and as the river was so low we contemplated a shortcut wading across. Oyster catchers and ducks lazed about on the rocks in the heat of the sun.

We cooled down with an ice cream from the famous Hudson’s shop in Chatburn, it was good to catch up with the pieman and we made plans for future forays.

*****

BOWLAND AT ITS BEST.

Looking up past Dunsop Bridge into the heart of Bowland.

14th June 2018. UK weather: Storm Hector batters Britain with winds of up to 100mph.

The above headlines in today’s papers were not encouraging but delving a little deeper and being three brave fellows we arranged a walk. We being ‘the rock man’, JD and myself. The idea was to stay low and leave late morning to avoid the worst of the storm. Leaving late was easily accomplished as the rock man was late anyhow. We parked up near Leagram Estate above Chipping avoiding any overhanging suspect trees. There was no sign of the wind abating.

Entering a windy Leagram Park.

Country lanes were used to weave through the fields bordering the fells. More and more barns have been converted into desirable residences and expensive 4×4’s kept pushing us into the hedgerows. The public road to the remote Burnslack was reached and followed before cutting off on the rougher track across the base of the fells. This is open country and felt wild today with the wind. Lickhurst was the next farm complex with new developments. The tenant, who was one of the last remaining true farmers, apparently has recently died. I had a long conversation with him when I last passed when he was telling me of his plans for retirement, sad news.

Lickhurst Farm.

Moving on we crossed the footbridge and headed up onto limestone pastures. These looked very dry as we’ve had virtually no rain for six weeks. The track down to Dinkling Green was found. JD and I had recollections of vicious dogs chained up here which would suddenly jump out as you passed through the farmyard. None today as the farmsteads have been gentrified. A nice stretch alongside a brook and we arrived at Higher Fence Wood, the farm with all those wooden hen houses.The rooster cockerel was proudly parading in front of his hareem. Free range eggs were advertised for £1.50 a dozen but unfortunately the cupboard was bare.

We were now in limestone country and relying on the rockman’s expert knowledge. There were limestone outcrops and signs of quarrying everywhere. We lunched under a limestone rockface of a long abandoned quarry. There were signs of chalk on the rock from modern-day boulderers.

Our lunch spot.

By now the sun was getting a little stronger but the wind was still bitterly cold. Tracks took us to New Laund Farm above the Inn at Whitewell which can be reached across the Hodder on stepping stones. Today however we stayed high and went into secretive mode for a little trespassing into the woods to locate Fairy Holes Caves. Once found we explored using our phone torches which proved far better than the old flashlight. I saw crinoid fossils which I had missed on previous occasions. The location is recognised as a Bronze Age burial site, probably dating to around 1800 BC.

The Inn at Whitewell.

Forbidden land.

 

We scrambled out onto the public right of way to Fair Oak , this gives some of the best views down into the Hodder Valley in both directions as it crosses a small col. See title picture for view NE. and below for River Hodder and SE to Longridge Fell.

‘Scrambling out’

From here on we wandered past old farmsteads all in a state of modern repair, Delightful residences but all so remote from anywhere. The old bridleway down from Greystoneley was followed over the ford.

Towards the end of the walk I wanted to explore a footpath I’d never used and it turned out perfect. From an old limekiln and quarry we went cross-country, unfortunately missing a crucial footbridge, back into the Leagram Estate. Delightful walking under the Fairsnape Fells with views across to Longridge Fell. The wind was still blowing strong when we reached the car but had detracted little from a grand day out.

My ‘new path’

Fairsnape Fells.

Longridge Fell.

*****