Feeling rather despondent after struggling to cycle around Longridge Fell the other day. I had been hoping soon to embark on a multiday cycle tour but now I was full of doubts, what would be my daily mileage. Realistically, I should be able to average 40 miles or more per day in hilly country, but I thought I was falling short of that. I’m getting older and I don’t have a scale to measure myself against, what I could do 30 or even 20 years ago doesn’t apply any more. I’m getting out of my depth.
I eventually stirred myself this morning as the weather brightened — time to test myself. From my house to the top of Jeffrey Hill is a mere 4 miles but is constantly uphill with 700ft of ascent. I aimed to cycle it without a break. Today’s route is in red compared to the circuitous blue of a few days ago.
I started slowly up through Longridge’s burgeoning housing estates. Summoning up some speed to pass the dog walkers, trying to not look out of breath. At the golf club the road was closed for drainage works but I squeezed through to remount and climb triumphantly to the summit of Jeffrey Hill just past the car park. Views of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills in one direction, the Three Peaks in the centre and Pendle in the other direction were too hazy for photography. A swoop down to the New Drop, now sold and being converted into apartments, and a right hand turn to follow the undulating road back past Craig Y, Upper Dilworth Reservoir and into town.
Approaching Jeffrey Hill.
Down to the New Drop.
Upper Dilworth Reservoir and The Fylde.
This took me just over an hour and I felt quite pleased with myself, slow but steady. I wouldn’t win any race, but I had proved to myself that my legs and lungs still have it. I’m trying to convince myself that cycling is wonderful. My next ride — that road going the full length of the fell to Birdy Brow and the Hodder. Watch this space, not that it will be very interesting.
I hadn’t intended to come to Heysham but the day seemed suited to exploration. I had parked up again at Halton station and cycled into Lancaster on the old line, as I did last week on my trip to Glasson and beyond. My plan today was to continue on the 69 cycle way into Morecambe and then explore the coast northwards. I was soon crossing the Lune on the Millennium Bridge and then taking another old railway line, still cycle route 69, westwards.Two thirds along here I noticed a marked turning perhaps towards Heysham and on a whim diverted off onto what must have been a branch line of the railway. I was now in the hands of the sign setter. At first, I was on a cycleway between horse paddocks, but then I was directed into suburban streets, thankfully traffic free. Signs were followed until I lost them, and then I followed my nose into the inevitable cul-de-sac in Higher Heysham. A bit of backtracking and then a bit of the main road past the C16th Old Hall Inn down to the ferry terminal. Not the best way into Heysham.
At last the sea was now in sight. The road came to an abrupt end, but I was able to cycle through on a rough path to arrive at Half Moon Bay where there was a café, but every seat was taken. An advantage of cycling over walking is that it is easy to continue on to the next source of refreshment, though that didn’t quite work out.
Half Moon Bay.
Onwards and I found myself in Heysham Village. Lots of quaint alleyways, I remember from years ago a house selling potted Morecambe Bay shrimps, but couldn’t see it today. Soon I’m alongside St. Peter’s Church. It is thought that a church was founded on this site in the 7th or 8th century. Some of the fabric of that church remains in the present church. In the graveyard is an Anglo-Saxon cross and a stone grave. A track goes up onto Heysham Head to the ruined C8th St. Patrick’s Chapel. Most people come here to view the ‘stone tombs’ — a group of six rock-cut tombs and a separate group of two rock-cut tombs. Each tomb has an associated socket, probably intended for a timber cross. I have to say that today with a perfect blue sky and clear views they were magical.
I found my way back onto the promenade around Morecambe Bay. Views across the water to the Lakeland Fells held my attention as I approached the West End of Morecambe. I was soon alongside the 1930s art deco Midland Hotel. Somewhere along here is the proposed site of the Eden Project North, which is expected to bring back prosperity to this ageing seaside resort. I’d never been down the ‘stone jetty’ to the old lighthouse, it was along here that a fellow blogger described what she thought was the ugliest sculpture, I’m inclined to agree with her.
Also on the jetty is a bell that only rings at certain high tides. This bell is one of several around the coast of Britain connecting us with our maritime heritage and a timely reminder of climate change. https://timeandtidebell.org/#
“Bay surging, channels filling, sun setting, I ring, I sing. Listen in.” written by the local artist community is going to be engraved onto the bell. I must come back one day at high tide.
The promenade is wide all along the front so cycling was possible without endangering the crowds enjoying views. I don’t stop at every attraction, I came this way back in 2109 whilst walking A Lancashire Monastic Way, but I have to visit Eric Morecambe’s statue on a sunny day like this.
Commander C G Forsberg. Master Mariner and Marathon Swimmer.
From time to time I stop and gaze across the water to the Lakeland silhouettes and as I round the Bay, Arnside Knott and Grange become more prominent. “Best view in Britain” one of the locals tells me. I knew of a café at the far end of the promenade where I thought I would get a snack, but time had flown, it was now 3.30 and they had closed.
The main road had to be used to enter Hest Bank where I found a garage that sold coffee and pies. I sat outside, still enjoying the warm sunshine. It’s always a mistake to ask a local motorist for directions when you are walking or cycling. ‘Go down the road until the traffic lights‘ – no mention of how far that is. ‘Follow the signs to Slyne and at the T-junction turn left to Halton’. After the lights half a mile away, I ended up on the busy A6, there wasn’t a T-junction and I was almost back to the garage where I started. At least I was on higher ground and had a good run down over the M6 into Halton, with the Bowland Fells in the background, and over the narrow bridge to my car, the last in the car park.
There may not be many more days like this as Autumn draws in — bring me sunshine any day.
I thought I’d give this post a sexy title to boost readership. Not that I look at all sexy in my fading Lycra cycling shorts. There should be an age limit for appearing in public wearing Lycra, and whatever it is I am long past it.
I’ve driven up the motorway, coming off at Junction 36 and found the narrow lane leading down to a car park at the redundant Halton station. This is on the old Morecambe to Wennington line which closed under The Beeching Act in 1966. Route 69 of the National Cycle Network connects Hest Bank on Morecambe Bay with Cleethorpes on the East coast and uses this section of line from Morecambe to Caton. Off I pedal westwards on the 69 into Lancaster. The River Lune is mainly hidden and I don’t recognise much until the Millennium Bridge where the 69 crosses the river. I’m heading to Glasson Dock, so I stay on the south side of the water. There seem to be a multitude of cycle paths in Lancaster and just following my nose I end up under the castle with the priory church looking down on me. A few streets later and I find my way back to the river which is not looking its best, the tide is out exposing lots of mud. I’ll locate the correct way next time.
Under the M6.
The canal aqueduct.
The new Greyhound and Millennium Bridges.
Priory church — getting lost.
Eventually I’m safely on the old railway track heading to Glasson. Lots of cyclists are using this route, I keep leapfrogging various parties as we go at different speeds, and I’m frequently stopping to take pictures of the Lune estuary. I have walked this stretch in the past when I was connecting a Lancaster Monastic Way. It is interesting to contrast walking a route and cycling it. One misses the little details as you ride by and although everyone says hello there is no chance to chat, that is until you reach a café and then can delve into gears and stems. As I don’t know one stem from another, I avoid the busy cyclists’ rendezvous at Glasson and cross over to the little shop which has freshly baked pies and good coffee. Here I can talk to the mature couples who have motored here for a good old-fashioned afternoon out. And of course there are the fishermen with their ready tales of yesterday’s catch.
Glasson across the marshes.
Up the creek?
Smell that coffee.
A lot of the cyclists head back the way they came, but I’m in for exploring different options that I’ve spotted on the map. So off I go along the rough narrow track, you couldn’t call it a towpath, alongside the Glasson Branch Canal to meet up with the Lancaster Canal. Ahead are the Bowland Hills, looking splendid in today’s sunshine. An easy option would be to follow the canal back to Lancaster, but I’ve walked that stretch many times.
The Glasson Branch
Endless games of fetch the stick.
Junction with the Lancaster Canal.
So again I go my own way again, threading through Galgate and onto lanes crossing the motorway and leading into the hills. There is only one bit I have to walk up, and then I’m onto the lovely high level road to the scattered houses of Quernmore. From up here are views across Morecambe Bay to the Lakeland Fells with the Bowland hills rubbing at my right shoulder. I sweep down past the isolated Quernmore church and on to the entrance to Quernmore Estate at Postern Gate which I recognise from our ‘trespass’ on the straight line from my house to Sir Hugh’s in Arnside. I daren’t risk cycling through today so I take the busy road down to Caton and am soon back onto that rail line — Route 69.
Lancaster University, Morecambe Bay and Black Coombe.
Postern Gate — tempted.
Down to Caton.
This last section back to Halton is impressive by dint of passing over two viaducts above the Crook Of Lune built in 1849 to carry the railway. This is a popular spot today with tourists, walkers and cyclists. There are stunning views up the Lune towards Hornby Castle and Ingleborough. Turner’s painting of the scene, pre railways, shows the original Penny Bridge carrying a road. This road bridge was rebuilt in 1889 and stands just below the East Viaduct. A long stretch in trees with little sight of the river has me back at Halton Station.
The Lune valley eastwards.
Crook of Lune road bridge.
I go down to the river near the wrought iron lattice bridge built in 1911 from the remains of the Original Greyhound Bridge in Lancaster. Sitting quietly in the sunshine, contemplating the slow flow of water before hitting the motorway. I didn’t need that sexy title — this landscape has no need of titillation.
Not a footpath in sight, not a stile climbed, not a fell summited, and you will be pleased to hear not a church visited. Oh! Well, maybe just one. My heel is playing up just when the weather is bucking up. Not to be defeated, I drag my bike out of the garage and do a few short rides around Longridge. So today I was ready for a longer ride. Out to Bashall Eaves, Cow Ark, Chipping, Whitechapel and back, about 29 miles (47 km) or so.
Cycling brings a different aspect to one’s locality. No flowers to identify, no birds to watch, no passing conversations. Just the tarmac ahead and that steep ascent looming. Today I concentrate on the inns that I pass, past and present. In the Ribble Valley and Bowland we have been lucky to have had an excellent selection of quality establishments. Rural inns have a long pedigree, their names tell us much of the local history. Unfortunately the country inn has suffered from economic pressures and several hostelries have bitten the dust. Covid has had a serious effect on the hospitality business.
On my corner is the Alston Arms, now The Alston which has had several reincarnations since its establishment in 1841. It has survived the COVID lockdowns and seems as busy as ever with locals, a large outside seating area has helped. Strange that I have not visited since over two years ago, when it was the favourite venue of my friend developing Alzheimer’s disease. She always ordered the same — fish, chips and mushy peas. And they were good!
The second one encountered on the road is the Derby Arms, recently reopened after a period under a fish franchise, The Seafood Pub Company, It looked open today for lunch, so all is well, hopefully. The area around here was part of the Derby Estate. The Stanley Family, Earls of Derby, established lands in Thornley here, hence the pub’s name.
Along the way through Chaigley I pass the former Craven Heifer Hotel. The Craven Heifer became a popular pub name, particularly in the Craven area, so I don’t know how one popped up in Bowland. This hotel was a regular eating place at the end of the last century, it closed Christmas Eve 2008. Since then, it has been a private residence.
On the way down to the Hodder I passed these gates which are normally locked. Today they were open, and I had a quick peep into their lands, with a lake and a large house in view. No idea who lives here. Chadswell Hall.
I stopped off at the Higher Hodder Bridge, the river was as low as I’ve seen for a while. Just up the road is the former Higher Hodder Hotel. This was another hotel with a long period of serving good food and ales. It became well known to the fishermen casting in the Hodder below. I noticed on an old photograph a petrol pump in its forecourt, those days are long gone. Its demise came in 2001 with a severe fire from the kitchen. Bought by a local businessman and converted into apartments. It still has problems with erosion from below where the Hodder flows, undermining the banks. One day it may all fall into the river.
At the next crossroads I knew of an ancient milestone but had never stopped to investigate, Today I had a good look at it. There was lettering on two sides with mileages. On the West face To Preston 10M. To Gisburn M8. On the North face To Lancaster 16M. To Whalley M3. 1766. It turns out that this is Grade II listed.
The next pub is the Red Pump in Bashall Eaves. This had been closed for some time when it was resurrected by the present owners in 2014, who turned it into a ‘gastropub’ with accommodation including recently added Glamping Yurts and Shepherd Huts. I notice that it has restricted opening hours, so calling in for a pint is not always possible. The pub has a connection to a murder mystery that was never solved.
Some serious pedalling has to be done climbing the road towards Browsholme Hall who have got in on the café scene. No time to visit today. On through the strangely named hamlet of Cow Ark and soon I’m freewheeling down the road which follows the line of the Roman Road from Ribchester to Carlisle and back over the Hodder at Doeford Bridge.
The Gibbon Bridge Hotel is a little farther on and has a history only going back to 1982 when the family diversified from farming to catering. Over the years the hotel has grown and particularly in recent times with the focus on weddings. They still do a good lunch in the dining room, with magnificent views over the gardens and Chipping Vale.
Chipping at one time had three pubs in the village. The Talbot has been closed for years and is looking in a sorry state. Opposite, the Tillotson’s is now open again but has annoyingly random hours, they were missing trade today as lots of tourists were wandering around the quaint village.
The Sun has had a renaissance and is now thriving both as a locals’ drinking pub and a reliable eatery. It is reputedly the most haunted pub in Lancashire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA1MZp3WYdI I couldn’t resist a wander around the churchyard looking for Lizzie Dean’s gravestone.
The Cobbled Corner Café has not reopened — it was a favourite with cyclists.
The Dog and Partridge just outside the village dates from the 16th century but closed in 2018 and is up for sale for residential development. Sign of the times.
I now head out to Whitechapel on narrow lanes under the shadow of Beacon Fell, When I first came to this area in the early seventies a curiosity was the Cross Keys Inn run by a farming family. It had irregular hours depending on work on the farm, a quirky bar, a good pool table. Late night sessions were common. At times, if the landlord was busy elsewhere, there was an honesty box for the drinks you had consumed. The inn was known, tongue in cheek, as The Dorchester! It closed over a decade ago but was bought by a local builder who has restored it along with accommodation units and has recently reopened it. Again, as the case with many of these rural pubs they are not open every day, particularly at the beginning of the week, but it is good to see it trading and I’ve promised myself a pint there soon.
Down the road is yet another Lancashire village, Inglewhite, centred on a village green and a cross. The pub here is called The Green Man and has a date stone of 1809. Green Men go back to pagan times and are a fairly common inn name — the sign here depicts a typical Green Man. This pub has been closed off and on for several years, reflecting the difficulties of successfully running a rural inn. Let’s hope it stays open for the foreseeable future. It was not open today!
Homeward-bound now with tiring legs, I pass the last rural pub — Ye Horns Inn. An 18th century listed building that closed four years ago. It had been run as a family business for decades, famous for its Goosnargh Roast Duck reared down the road, and its unique wooden panelled snug located behind the bar. New owners have developed the site with residential properties, but hope to reopen the pub soon. I await with bated breath. Another unique feature here is the men’s urinal across the road from the pub. Not sure how many drunken patrons were run down on this precarious crossing.
It is strange that my trip around all these rural inns didn’t involve any alcohol intake but as you saw several are closed for good, others concentrate on dining and others have limited opening. With a bit of organisation and forward planning, a right good pub cycle could be achieved around the eight trading pubs— but whether it would be legal or safe to ride a bike at the end of it would be debatable.
I’ve put myself out of action by landing badly on my heel whilst bouldering without a crash pad, just when I was preparing for a long distance walk. So with the grouse shooting season soon to be upon us, I’ll share a post from Rapture Prosecution of a press release from Rewilding Britain which highlights the fact that OUR National Parks host substantial areas of Grouse Driven Moors. Certainly worth a read.
The evidence of damage to protected habitats, increased flooding, greenhouse gas emissions from moor burn, and of course, the illegal persecution of protected wildlife, especially birds of prey and small mammals caused by the grouse shooting community is pretty damning. But our politicians do little about it.
The more the public are aware of the problems, the more chance of some legislative reform. There are lots of people (Chris Packham, Ruth Tingay etc) out there trying to raise the profile of the damage, if not criminality, caused by the shooting community. So sharing this post may open more eyes and ears to the situation. There are plenty of petitions to add your names to, every little helps.
Thursday, July 15th. 7.5 miles. Knowle Green/Longridge Fell.
10am. As usual, I’m festering in bed with a second coffee and the day is drifting away. The high temperatures ensure I’m not rushing off anywhere. The phone rings and I prepare myself for fending off Amazon Prime or Netflix scams. But no, it is JD enquiring if I’m wasting the day or would I like a walk, 5 or 6 miles up the fell? I say yes to the latter and hurriedly sort myself out to meet him at the top of town. Things have gone quiet since my trips away, I’ve been bouldering up in Sweden Quarry the last few days, where there is shade from the hot sun, but my arms need a rest, so a walk is perfect.
We take the path through Green Banks Quarry housing estate, given planning permission on the understanding that it would be for tourist lets and bring prosperity to Longridge, what a joke. A bridleway goes down to the Written Stone, all familiar territory. We catch up, he’s been away in the Lakes, and I’ve been straight lining it to the North Sea. Our vague plan was to walk field paths above Knowle Green and then maybe climb up onto Longridge Fell.
Coincidentally, one of the last times I was here was with Sir Hugh on that straight line walk I mentioned earlier, back in winter 2019. https://bowlandclimber.com/2019/02/04/sd-38-longridge-to-barrow-whalley/ So I had a ready-made continuation walk on paths not known to JD or to many others, judging from their wildness. The same farmer who appeared from his run down house back in 2019 was eager to chat again today. He was all talk of shearing his sheep tomorrow and how if he penned them in on his cobbled area they would clean the yard of vegetation. There is no money in sheep wool these days. He warned us that the footpath ahead was difficult to follow, but I thought I knew better until we ended up in the wrong field. I did at least find the hidden way across Cowley Brook.
Working our way up pathless fields to Hougher Hall was hot work, the dreaded Horse Flies were a menace. The slate poem by the gate is a lovely reference to swallows, unfortunately there aren’t many about this year.
It was with some relief that we arrived at the open fell by the little reservoir. This where JD pulled out an ace and set his stove up to prepare a decent coffee with biscuits. Luxury. Friends of mine wild swim in this water, but I see that a ‘No Swimming’ notice has been erected since last I was here. Presumably, United Utilities Health and Safety.
Refreshed we continued up onto the fell, looking back the reservoir appeared hazily below. We had no need to visit the trig point, and it was now all downhill on the spine of aptly named Longridge Fell. There was some friendly discussion as to the length of our walk, JD’s 5 or 6 probably transformed to my 7 or 8 miles.
Guess what, we finished the afternoon having another coffee with his wife on their sunny patio with that wonderful Bowland Panorama.
There has hardly been any rain in the last few weeks, it was bound to change and it was just The Rockman’s bad luck to be here today. I have not seen him for almost a year, so when he phoned to say he was passing en-route to Milnthorpe and would call in for coffee, I was delighted. I had recently declined to visit him in Bolton when their Covid figures were sky-high and travel there was discouraged. Times have moved on, and now the Ribble Valley is leading the way in UK infections. As he said, “that was no problem”.
I suggested a gentle walk up Longridge Fell and then a spot of lunch before his onward journey. The morning was dull when he arrived, optimistically wearing shorts and short-sleeved summer shirt. After a coffee and catch up, even my cat seemed pleased to see him, we drove up the fell. There were spots of rain in the air as we left the car. Our attention was diverted by a patch of orchids in the car park.
The track up the fell was as dry as I’ve ever seen it so the usual bog jumping tactics weren’t needed. Slowly the cloud lowered, blotting out any views of the Bowland Hills or the Yorkshire Three Peaks. We chatted away, ignoring the dampness, as he said, “it was only hill drizzle”. The summit cairn came and went, we had only passed one other walker on his way down. I navigated us into the forest for some shelter and a different way back. As he said, “there was little evidence of a path”, but I knew better and forged onwards, used to these hidden parts. It was only when we emerged from the trees heading downhill in the wrong direction that I admitted we could be lost or as all good explorers say “temporally displaced” Coincidentally at the time we were discussing Tilman who had his fair share of epics. The Rockman actually met Bill Tilman way back in the sixties down in Antarctica when the latter was exploring the southern seas and The Rockman working for the British Antarctic Survey, there was talk of penguins. Backtracking soon sorted out our problem.
When we next emerged from the trees the rain was continuous and as he said, “wetting”. You all know a summer’s day walking in unexpected rain. Speed was of essence, and we were soon back at the car driving home with the heater on. What was planned as a cold summer cucumber soup was quickly heated up to be more palatable on a day like this. I even switched the central heating on for the first time for months, this was not a success as it produced a dull droning noise throughout the house, I suspect coming from an ailing pump. Something to worry about later.
We enjoyed a good catchup and if he hadn’t come I would certainly not have ventured out, so some exercise was accomplished which we both agreed was worthwhile and should be repeated more often now we are hopefully coming out of lockdown, but maybe with an eye to the weather forecast. He drove away in a heavy downpour. As he said, “the luck of the draw”.
It was a lovely evening when I got round to another litter pick on Longridge Fell, I’ve been away. A Sunday often gives good results. The fields below in the Chipping valley were a wonderful patchwork as some have been cut ahead of others. The usual cans and crisp packets occupy the first few hundred metres from the car park. From then on there was little in evidence, perhaps someone else is covering the same route? Tonight however I must have been following in the footsteps of a chain smoker as there were cigarette butts at regular intervals, 20 a day? I don’t know how he or she had the puff to get to the top. As well as being a litter problem, I wondered about the fire hazard, as the fell is much drier than usual..
On the way back down, curlews were making a racket and sure enough a dog walker had his spaniel running around the fell. Of course, “he was well-behaved off the lead”
A little farther I came across a bird watcher I knew, he’d also had words with the dog walker to no avail. We chatted about curlews and other species still to be seen up here.
By the time I got back to the car, the sun’s rays were becoming weaker. Always a walk worth doing.
This is a repeat of a walk I did on a lovely summer’s day last year and today was another perfect warm and sunny day. We drove over with the roof down for Covid safety and for the exhilaration of the Lancashire hill country. As we parked up a red kite was being mobbed by crows above our heads. A new notice board has been erected on the river bank highlighting the very walk I had planned for today. https://ribblelifetogether.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Slaidburn-route-guide.pdf We virtually met no one apart from in Slaidburn.
The flatness of the riverside meadows was in contrast to the steep wooded limestone escarpment to our left. Dunnow Hall was looking resplendent. Instead of using the road, we followed a concessionary alongside the Hodder all the way to Slaidburn. As usual, the café and car park were busy with tourists and motorcyclists. We sat by the bridge for a welcome drink before that steep pull up the road and into fields going over small hills to Easington. From up here the enclosing bare Bowland Hills were a contrast to the green wooded valleys. Swifts few overhead.
The little Easington Beck was followed to Easington Manor and hamlet. Mike was pointing out properties on the northern flanks of Easington Fell that he developed for a businessman who had just sold TVR (the then Blackpool built sports car). Money was no object. Now back beside the Hodder we followed an old cobbled track, known locally as the ’causer’, to the bridge at Newton. Sand martins, dippers and wagtails all made an appearance on queue.
Mike not impressed by the village hall.
Slaidburn bridge shading sheep.
Bowland at its best.
Back on the Hodder.
The pub in the village was closed, so we drove home for tea. A classic little circuit made all the more enjoyable by the weather, and of course the company.
For a more detailed description of the villages, have a look at …
The concept is straight forward: walk up Fairsnape, watch the sun set, bivvy, watch the sun rise, walk down.
That is precisely what I did last night. After supper, I drove out to Chipping and parked up under Parlick Fell. I know I should have walked, but it was a last minute decision. Several other cars were parked up, either late off the hill or with the same idea as me.
The lane to Fell Foot, Longridge Fell behind.
I trudged my way around the Western flanks of Parlick and onto the ridge leading easily to the trig point on Fairsnape. 510 m. My suspicions were correct, there were already two tents pitched near the top. A couple of lads out from Preston. A few more people wandered about and disappeared.
Where are you going?
I found a soft flat spot for my bivvy just east of the summit. Making a careful note in my mind as to its position.
I returned to the trig to photo the sunset over Morecambe Bay and Black Coombe. It could have been better.
I returned to my bivvy for a flask of tea and an early night, I don’t remember it getting really dark. The next thing it was after 4am, and I was awake. I got up and paced about in the cold wind waiting for the sunrise. It could have been better, although the light over Ingleborough was special.
Whernside and Ingleborough, 4.15am.
I decided to get back into my sleeping bag to get warm before walking down, and before I knew it the clock showed eight. Packed up at last I set off down and used the zigzags towards Higher Fairsnape. There was nobody about, so I took a more direct line to join the path above Blindhurst Farm and back to Fell Foot. Only near there did I meet the early birds going up.
Top of the Zigzags.
Looking back to my descent.
First met in the morning, they should have had a good day.
It is rare for me to discover a local path that I have not walked, but I believe I found one today.
Mike phoned suggesting a walk and we agreed on driving a little further in one car to Dunsop Bridge, with the windows open. How risqué.
The plan was to walk up the waterboard road and traverse the boggy watershed between Brennand and Whitendale. Heavy overnight rain made me have a rethink, lets just walk around the Hodder. We found a place in the free [keep it to yourself] car park next to the café. Morning coffees were already being served take away style.
A stroll past the ducks on the green and the ‘Centre of Britain’ phone box and we were striding down the avenue of giant Sequoias leading to Thorneyholme Hall. Before the River Hodder a stile on the left gave access to fields which we were able to follow alongside the water. Not many people come this way, it was my first time. Old trees have outgrown their metal railings.
There is a large pipe bridge taking water from Slaidburn Reservoir towards the Fylde and a little farther on a flimsy looking suspension bridge. We examined it for sturdiness, it wobbled a lot. Continuing up the river bank we had only sheep and lambs for company. Unfortunately we had a short section on the road at Boarsden, in retrospect we could probably have used tracks in the fields with a little trespassing. Anyhow, we were soon back on an indistinct field path passing by a massive quarry which had eaten away a considerable amount of rock from a Limestone Reef Knoll. After a look around the base of the quarry we continued across fields to a suspension bridge identical to the one seen earlier, at least on this occasion we were justified in venturing onto the bridge as the public footpath crossed it. Feeling seasick we crossed another field to come out onto a lane.
I recognised my surroundings now, and we marched along over Giddy Bridge, a solid stone one, not at all giddy like the suspension bridges. The Knowlmere Manor House lies just off the track and is noted for its many chimneys, each room in the past must have had a fireplace – think of their energy rating.
The track rises past Mossthwaite with the Bowland Hills ahead and that first little bridge far below. We witnessed a commotion amongst a flock of jackdaws ahead of us, only when reaching the spot did we see the Sparrow Hawk awkwardly trying to fly off with its kill. I wanted to visit the banks of the Hodder downstream from its confluence with the Dunsop where sandbanks are home to sand martins but today, strangely, there were none.
We walked back upstream to Thorneyholme and crossed the river back to a busy Dunsop Bridge. Those metal kissing gates with the yellow latch are spreading everywhere. A takeaway coffee and cake were obligatory outside the PuddleDucks Café along with all the cyclists.
A lovely sunny morning’s stroll in stunning Bowland scenery.
Where haven’t I been for a while? Well it’s several years since I explored the countryside visible southwards across the River Ribble. In the past I thought that the footpaths were difficult to follow and rights of way ignored on the ground. Time for a revisit. So I found myself parked up in Balderstone; a school, a church and a couple of houses. I waved to a man delivering hay to one of the houses and then I was off along quiet country lanes. At Lane Ends I visited a trig point, for no obvious reason, at the lofty height of 74 m.
My first objective was to visit Balderstone Hall on the River Ribble and view from this side the former ford across to Alston. I’ve recently been looking at this scene from the Alston side.
A pleasant stroll down fields above the river brought me out into the confines of expensive and secluded properties. A right of way was shown on the map but it looked daunting. As it happened a couple of builders whom I knew were working on a wall of the Hall, they said nobody was about and showed me the way through past the rather intimidating signs. I didn’t like the look of the river crossing, maybe in high summer and low water I’d be tempted. The old map marks the ford.
I retraced my steps and left the exclusive properties for a path past a more run down farm. Crossing fields on the flood plain I bypassed a large farm and climbed back up the escarpment to reach a road heading west to Bezza House. Years ago, when Bezza was a tree nursery, I used to come here with Dor and many of the trees in her and my garden originated from here. One in particular that she bought was the ‘handkerchief tree’ Davidia involucrata, an exotic specimen from China. It takes years to flower and so one spring whilst they were away for the day I went around with a ladder and white paper tissues which resembled the flowers from a distance. Suffice is to say that they were well and truly tricked but the tree had the last laugh by flowering the next year and every year since.
There are great views from up here of the Thirlmere Aqueduct crossing the River Ribble.
Where the road used to continue bollards have appeared and now only a bridleway continues to Samlesbury. And what a pleasant bridleway it was; lined with spring flowers, bordering fields full of lambs and having views across the Ribble to Alston, Longridge and beyond.
It was getting near lunchtime so I hurried to reach St. Leonard the Less Church where I expected there to be seats. I was not disappointed, in fact a couple of walkers were already occupying the prime bench. The church unfortunately was closed. It has some very old box pews, apparently. I had to be content with the exterior views of the oldest, C16th, sandstone part and the distinctive tower built at the end of the C19th. In the graveyard was an ancient sundial, 1742, and a large font, 1769. The adjacent primary school is also of a certain vintage, I’m always cautious taking photos near schools.
A path climbed fields towards a house which turned out to be another religious establishment, the Roman Catholic Church of Saint John Southworth and presbytery.
An old sunken track high above the busy A59 was a hidden delight to walk. Peace came to an abrupt end when a stile deposited me onto the pavement adjacent to the traffic lights at the busy junction next to the Five Barred Gate motel.
Once across safely I was happy to follow the quiet lane past the extensive sewage works. Up and down it went until I was able to take a footpath across to another lane, thus by-passing the Nabs Head pub which has too many recent memories for me. I was soon on the pavement outside the C15th Samlesbury Hall. What a magnificent building this is and to think it was bought in 1920 for demolition, only to be saved by a local trust. I crept into the grounds for a closed look.
Crossing the busy road I made use of a quiet bridleway, Park Lane, taking me to Mellor Brook. I wished I’d had a bag to collect some wild garlic. From up here I could look across the extensive BAE site and the Ribble Valley to Longridge and the Bowland Hills.
I took a footpath behind houses where friends live hoping for a cuppa, but they were not at home. This humble little stream, Mellor Brook, once fed a mill pond that supplied water to a cotton mill.
The village deserves a better look with little alleyways and old houses. An unknown lane went under the A59 and out into the countryside. Fields headed back to Balderstone with the church spire always prominent. On the way I passed the grand looking Grange, you could rent its nine bedrooms on Airbnb for £2000 per night.
Arriving back at the school I was greeted by the man who’d seen me set off this morning. Turned out he was the school caretaker and seemed impressed by my modest mileage. I had time for a look around the outside of St. Leonards Church. It dates from the C16th but was rebuilt in the 1850s, the tower and prominent steeple were added in 1905 by those old favourites of Lancashire church architecture Austin and Paley.
I have had perfect weather for today’s enjoyable amble in this delightful backwater just off the A59. It was worth crossing the Ribble. Looking at the map I will return and complete another circuit to the east based on Osbaldeston.
There were quite a few cars in the car park this morning when we arrived – early birds or dog walkers. Sir Hugh was just recovering from his head dive last week and I noticed a slight reluctance to turn his neck, however today was only going to be about six miles, well it turned out nearly eight, but there was no problem.
We climbed up onto Clougha Pike using the Rowton Brook path which passes evidence of past cottage industries most notably the C17 cotton mill. The present owner was happy to chat about its history and life in general.
There was no let up in the ascent but the ground was mercifully dry. The trig point, 413 m, was adorned with the most un-Goldsworthy stones. The views over the bay were murky but Morecambe Power station was ever present. In the other direction that other old favourite, Ingleborough, was in the background.
The easy way.
Clougha Pike summit. 415m.
The obvious continuation track went to Grit Fell, we followed it as the rest is trackless heather. The peat was bone dry and a joy to stride out on with skylarks somewhere overhead. A few grouse were calling gobackgoback. Not recalling that Goldsworthy’s installation was named ‘The Three Chairs’ we spent some time trying to identify three large gritstones fitting that description and marked approximately on the map.
Grit Fell 467 m. Can you spot Ingleborough in the gloom?
I did recall this isolated Xmas Tree farther along the ridge.
Once on the shooters’ highway we made good progress back in the direction we had just come from. I was beginning to doubt my ability as a guide when the moors stretched out ahead of us with no sign of quarries or chairs. Sir Hugh thought the day was a failure when suddenly we were there and the installations appeared much larger than I remembered. [marked G on the map] He was impressed – with the statues not my navigation. Do you call them statues, sculptures, installations or piles of stones? That’s where art has its personal interpretations. Piles of stones they certainly are not, these are carefully crafted structures with intricate stone work. Apparently Goldsworthy constructed one each year from 1999 to celebrate the millennium. We speculated whether he constructs them himself or employs a stonemason to help. After the obligatory photos we continued on our way off the fell.
An estate worker’s massive 4X4 passed us – or was it the Duke.
Three cairns appeared on the left which we declined to visit but on the next photo look quite interesting.
I was chatting to Sir Hugh about the Thirlmere Aqueduct which comes this way and an old quarry [marked Q on the map] near Ottergear viaduct ‘discovered’ and climbed in by my friend Pete. We reached the impressive viaduct and almost missed the quarry which I’d expressed a desire to revisit. A chance glance behind and we noticed a couple of blokes in the quarry. They were doing a bit of climbing there as it has been highlighted in a recent supplement to the boulders in this area. That led to a sociable chat about old times climbing.
A sandy path through the heather brought us back to the car park. A perfect little fell day.
The approximate midpoint between me, Longridge, and Sir Hugh, Arnside, is the Galgate junction of the M6 just south of Lancaster University. A meeting was arranged for the first time in 6 months. It nearly got off to a bad start as I parked up on the wrong road. Anyhow, once corrected we set off into those fields trying to escape the motorway noise. This could have been a nothing walk but as things turned out there was plenty of interest. Of course not having met up for all those weeks our conversation meant we were ‘lost’ on several occasions. Sir Hugh’s plotted route, chosen I think with a pin, was flexible enough for us to complete the circuit. It was more undulating than first appeared, and we reached the dizzy height of about 150 m. Any views tended to be to the west over the motorway, although the Bowland Fells were ever present a few miles away. We even visited the upper part of Dolphinholme.
The delay in this posting is partially due to my involvement in local affairs. The field opposite my house has been earmarked for development for some time. All local objections have been dismissed – so here come a couple of hundred houses. What we didn’t expect was intensive piledriving occurring almost adjacent to our properties. We awoke after Easter to vibrations akin to small earthquakes. Cracks started to appear inside our houses. Local authorities were to be honest hopeless and disinterested in appreciating the seriousness of the disruption. Barratt Homes were dismissive of our protestations. My next step was to contact my MP, Ben Wallace, someone I had never voted for. He immediately took up our cause and took on the mights of Barratt. The good news is that they have been stopped from piledriving for now, a victory for the common people. There is some way to go yet, but they are having to look at alternative methods of consolidating the ground which they shouldn’t have been building on in the first place – I hope it costs them a fortune.
A forest of piles, excuse the expression, hundreds of them.
The offending monster being taken away Monday morning, no doubt to disturb someone else’s neighbourhood.
Anyway back to the start…
A massive mushroom farm has mushroomed in the fields next to the motorway. The farms round here are on an industrial scale, the cows have their own mechanised backscratcher. There are some interesting names, as the header photo and this attractive sign. Busy weekend roads were crossed, we couldn’t work out where they were coming from or going to, but we must have travelled them at some time. All looks different on foot. A trig point,136 m, was visited off route, it was next to an impressive stone wall with Grit Fell and Ward Stones just peeping over the top.
Old tracks lead to remote farms, had we strayed into another land?
Another slight diversion took us to an unusual feature marked on the map… … it turned out to be the ruins of a dozen WW2 ammunition holdings with double walls intended to reduce the shock if there was an explosion. But why build them in such proximity?
A lane wandered down to a farm complex, you can see we were at the back of beyond. Children and friendly dogs ran wild. The farm house looked old – it was. 1698 above the door. As was some of the equipment. A lovely valley wound onwards until we became literally fenced in a horsey property. Lunch was taken above a small stream heading into the River Wyre.
Later after more intricate fence climbing we arrived at Four Lane Ends in upper Dolphinholme and much later still we arrived at Five Way Ends, that makes nine, no wonder we were lost. Ponies were being exercised as we walked down the road, makes a change from all the dogs we see at the moment.
A splendid walk, not bad for sticking a pin in the map – no, thanks for Sir Hugh’s excellent planning.
The day wasn’t over as in the last field to be crossed Sir Hugh executed a superb diving header of the ball into the opponents net, except there was no net and no ball, just a hard landing on his skull. Obviously he survived and I hear is recovering well.
I’ve been very good during the Pandemic, self-isolating for my own good, not mixing with my family or anyone else really, not travelling outside my area and living off home deliveries. The latter have been excellent, and I’ve put on a few pounds. Today I went high into the Bowland Fells for the first time in months. I felt strangely anxious, not wanting a helicopter rescue. But I have walked this route hundreds of times, it was once my evening fell run.
I parked in my little slot below Saddle End and walked slowly up the fell. As usual, I met no one going this way and I was so slow others would have overtaken me. Skylarks were in full song, and it was a joy to be on the hill.
I took the manufactured track across the side of the fell, but I had to deviate over the flagstones to take in the highest point, the cairn of Fairsnape Fell, 520 m. One can’t come up here without visiting the top, but apparently many do. I was rewarded in solitude with views over to the three Yorkshire Peaks area where friends were walking today – if they could get parked anywhere.
The beeline to Paddy’s Pole, the other summit of Fair Snape, 510 m, was easy as the peat hags had dried up in the last couple of weeks. You can hardly believe the difference in that time from limb sucking bogs to dry, even dusty, peat. Anyhow, I wasn’t complaining.
There was no one at the cairns or trig point on this westerly bit of Fair Snape Fell. I sat and ate an orange looking out to Morecambe Bay and the hazy Lake District. I spent some time scouting out for a flat area suitable for an overnight bivi. Last year, or the year before, I bivied out on Beacon Fell and Longridge Fell and I want to complete the trilogy which was halted last year.
Then it was fast walking around the fell rim towards Parlick, not forgetting to spot Nick’s Chair [Martin B]
Earlier in the day I’d spotted parapentes in the sky, launching from the more unusual east side of Parlick. I took the track in their direction hoping for some close up photos, but it seemed to be lunchtime. None were in the air. Some were still making their laborious way up. As soon as I was halfway down they stared appearing in the sky once more.I took the steep way down the fell.
Traversing lapwing fields took me back to the road and my solitary car. I managed to buy some excellent free-range eggs at the end of the lane.
Down came the soft top for an exhilarating drive home. I do feel I’ve been released. On a day like today up there in the Bowland Fells you couldn’t feel any different. A natural high.
We drive the 4 miles to Chipping and meet up in the village hall car park. I had promised Mike it would be sunny for him to have a morning away from the builders working on his garage. He is pitching the roof, adding solar panels, electric charge point and enlarging his drive with stone sets etc. etc. I think it is a larger job than he had first envisaged, though he should know. Anyhow there was no sign of the sun, in fact it was grey and cold when we set off at 9.30.
This is a walk we have done many times, but it makes use of, on the whole, well surfaced farm tracks in the foothills of the Bowland Hills. The snowdrops in the grounds of Leagram Hall had finished flowering which was a shame though there were primroses on the lane banks. From Laund sheep farm we cut across to renovated Park Gate where the only field of the day linked up with tracks at the empty Park Style. This whole area is rough upland and the Lapwings and Curlews were in good evidence today. They get a chance to breed up here as the fields don’t get cut until later in the year, if ever. A pair of Buzzards are soaring high above. Down one of the tracks we see a stoat in its white winter coat running ahead of us, quite exciting. At Lickhurst we meet up with the bridleway coming from Saddle Side, not taken today because it is very boggy in parts. There were notices on the gate warning people not to take vehicles along it. This is the first time I’ve seen this but apparently during lockdown 4X4s have been coming out in the night on these lanes. Of course most of them have been registered in Manchester/Liverpool, often with no tax or insurance. There are a group of people who think they can do what they like and escape notice during lockdown. The track has been severely damaged by these morons.
We walk on down the road and over three bridges which have replaced fords in the time I’ve lived in the area, Lickhurst could be impossible to reach after heavy winter rain in the past. I show Mike the long single span clapper bridge, 6 metres of solid grit stone, and we wonder how they handled it here. It must have been brought here from some distance as all is limestone in the vicinity. Upstream is a fish ladder I’ve not noticed before.
We walk on past that isolated iconic red phone box…
We have friends living in the next group of houses and we have a chat and an illicit coffee over the garden wall. Sheila has a heavenly glow in the photo. The bridleway leading onwards crosses the beck encountered before at a ford, fortunately there is a footbridge just up stream, [Greystoneley Brook which soon joins the Hodder at Stakes Farm near the stepping stones] This whole area has had its trees harvested last year and looks very bare, but thousands of new trees have been planted so it will be interesting to see how it matures.
The lane passes close to a large almost intact lime kiln in an extensive quarry, another detour. At the end of the lane we meet a chatty horse rider.
On the road back Mike met a retired school teacher who was responsible for getting his children off to a good start. More catching up chat ensues. With all the ‘delays’ we don’t get back to the car till nearly 2pm by which time the sun has come out.
Whilst mentioning the birds we saw today I should also like to report that most evenings while I’ve been bouldering up on the fell a pair of barn owls have been quartering the open areas, a majestic sight as they fly past close by without a sound. The days are getting noticeably longer and there have been some beautiful sunsets to coincide with the Spring equinox.
My last walk, at the weekend with Mike, was through the fields and lanes of Chipping Vale with a little nibble at the west end of Longridge Fell. All very repetitive, so much so I didn’t take a single photo but the conversation must have been good. A couple of days have been spent festering, you know how it is. Today started slowly until I made the effort to get going and put some mileage under my belt. Starting from home the obvious way to increase my mileage was to continue along the road to the north of Longridge Fell before striking to the top. I noticed a few more roadside signs on the way.