Category Archives: Bowland Fells.

A SOUTHERN CIRCUIT ON LONGRIDGE FELL.


I’ve been up Longridge Fell three times this week, all from different directions. This lack of originality is partially based on my reluctance to drive far, partly on the weather [torrential rain on alternate days put boggy Fairsnape out of the question] and mainly on my slow re-acquaintance with hilly country. Anyhow it is a great little fell, the most southerly named fell in the UK with the easy to remember 350m height.

Today, Thursday 5th April, was fantastic, you couldn’t have wished for a better Spring like day. Blue skies, no wind and warmish sun [that’s that round yellow thing in the sky]. Of course the paths were still muddy and slippy but that’s par for the course at this time of year in Lancashire. A few groups were out on longer rambles and the dog strollers were making the best of the day.

I parked at Higher Hodder Bridge and  tackled the steep Birdy Brow road head on, One gains height quickly and just past Kemple End the forest track leaves the road zigzagging into the trees. I was already sweating as the morning warmed up. The forest track on a day like this reminded me of walking through Southern Spain on the GR 7 where there is much forest. I was going to say ‘wish I was there now’ but on a day like this you can’t  beat Lancashire. A hidden little path through the trees brings one out at a lovely open viewpoint with the Bowland Fells full on, the frosty Yorkshire peaks off to the East and Chipping Vale at your feet,

Higher on the fell I came across forest workers hand planting thousands of spruce saplings in rough ground that had been felled a couple of years ago. These are disease resistant ones and I will watch their growth over coming years.

Knowing that the track was blocked ahead with fallen trees I again took to smaller paths through the trees some of which are old Scots Pines, an enchanting place. I’ve been known to bivy in this secret place with the bonus of deer wandering past in the night. Further on is the ‘wall path’ leading towards the summit.  Years ago this path was hardly visible but has become more used and hence more boggy, most of the wall that ran alongside it has been now used as infill for the path.

Once out in the open the white trig point was clearly seen ahead with more stunning views of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills. If I had kept walking down the ridge I would have been home in an hour but I had a circuit to complete so headed south on forest roads, with Pendle Hill dominant ahead above the Ribble Valley, to come out at the road above Crowshaw Quarry where I had a bite to eat in the sunshine.

The bridle way down past Green Gore to Hurst Green is very familiar but I realised I nearly always walk it in the opposite direction. One of my favourite places is Dean Brook as it descends off the fell and through old mill placements at Hurst Green. The bridge there is a great launching pad for poo sticks.

I came out at the Almshouses which somehow were brought down from Kemple End. The Bayley Arms pub seems to be closed so I carried straight across on Smithy Lane through muddy fields and into the grounds of Stoneyhurst College.

I took the private road to Hodder Court where I picked up the popular footpath alongside the Hodder river. This is a roller coaster of a path in the trees above the river as I headed back to  Higher Hodder Bridge. A delight with the fast flowing Hodder below, emerging Wild Garlic under my feet and expectant bird song in the air.

That was 5 hours of my life well spent.

*****

 

What is happening to our birds of prey?

I subscribe to the blog below. I realise that at times they have their own agenda directed against the ‘landed classes’ but each week there are reports of bird persecutions. We in Bowland have a long history of the magnificent Hen Harriers declining in number over the grouse moors. Tagging of birds is now providing more evidence of their disappearances.

I would like to share the following for your attention…

 

“They can hide the bodies. They can hide the tags. But they can’t hide the pattern” (Dr Hugh Webster) RSPB Press release: ANOTHER SATELLITE-TAGGED GOLDEN EAGLE ‘DISAPPEARS’ IN INVERNESS-SHIRE Conservationists are concerned about the safety of a young pair of eagles after news emerged that another satellite-tagged golden eagle has disappeared in the northern Monadhliath […]

via Yet another golden eagle disappears on a Scottish grouse moor — Raptor Persecution UK

A BLEASDALE BABBLE.

The streams coming off the Bowland Fells were babbling, full of water, and we babbled, full of air, as we strolled round the tracks. The walk passed by pleasantly with all the chat and we occasionally glanced at the hills which a few days before had been plastered with snow but were now in Springlike condition.

I persuaded JD, of Canary Islands GR131 fame, to accompany me, he was hankering for the open fells – give me another week or so. When I phoned him early morning, a perfect bright sunny and dry one, he had just returned from a morning gym session so I was doubly grateful for his company.

I have described in greater detail variations of this walk several times before. Usually done in the winter when it provides a fairly solid surface to walk on, particularly important in this season’s exceptional wetness. The farmer we met on his quad bike described it as the wettest he had experienced, we could only take his word for that.

At the start a few parapenters were soaring above Parlick and a little further we spotted four buzzards doing there own soaring on the distance.

We walked right round the base of the fells  Parlick, Fairsnape, Holme House and Hazelhurst past farmhouses where hill sheep farming has changed little over the years, then on through the Bleasdale Tower estate to emerge onto the road leading to Oakenclough. There were hazy views over the Fylde from up here, a good place for a spot of lunch in the sunshine. Whilst I chewed on my banana JD tried to figure out how to open his tin of tuna which turned out not to have a ring pull – ah well he is on a diet.

Road walking took us past Tootle Hall which I remember was once a homely farm cafe serving chicken in the basket with chips, ham and eggs or a substantial afternoon tea. In the area in those days several farmers’  wives supplemented their incomes with meals in the family dining room. [There is one remaining in Ford Lane, Goosnargh – The Cottage. Go there soon if you wish to recreate eating out in the 60s and 70s. Its all gastro pubs now.]

Walking on past that wonderful beech hedge and we were back at the car within 3hours. A perfect babble and one I will no doubt repeat many time in future winters.

                                                              *****

FRUSTRATION 3 – NEEDS MUST.

I usually walk across the fields to Gill Bridge on the Loud River.

The River Loud arises up near Beacon Fell and flows ‘loudly’ at first through Chipping Vale and once under Gill Bridge sedately past Gibbon Bridge to join the Hodder at Doeford Bridge. In past geological times this latter flow was westwards, north of Longridge Fell, directly into the Ribble but glacial deposits reversed the flow into the present circuitous route via the Hodder.

My boys at a certain age used to disappear on fishing trips to Gill Bridge and I seem to remember them returning proudly with the smallest trout you’ve ever seen. I never knew where they went or the legality of their pastimes, how times have changed.

Today I took the lanes to avoid any unnecessary rough ground and steep bits. I began to wonder at this choice as cars and large tractor things flashed by me at breakneck speed – what is the hurry these days? They seemed oblivious to the icy stretches on some of the corners.

I just couldn’t resist a walk out today as the weather was perfect;  blue skies, winter sunshine, zero wind and subzero temperatures. Yes I know I would have preferred to be up on Fairsnape Fell which was prominently in the background for the duration of my amble, heading picture. But needs must,  I keep probing at how far I can walk on the flat as there is still an outside chance that I may be able to escape for a few days before Christmas, I have a couple of ideas in my mind for a getaway. I’m not exactly feeding the rat today [ “Feeding the rat is the need to get out, to test yourself, to flush out the system, and, above all, to have some fun.”  Al Alvarez. ]

My probing nearly came unstuck when I slipped on a patch of ice …

… and gave my left hip a painful tweak –  a rest, some heavy breathing as well as heavy cursing got me going again. I limped into the grounds of Ferraris Country House, on a public footpath past the originally named Blackmoss House, and bumped into an old acquaintance who now works here part time as gardener/handyman. We caught up with our respective news’s [what is the plural of news?]. The place was busy with a wedding of a hundred guests, how much has that cost?

Back over the Loud and onto the busy road the tearooms where I buy local produce were closing.

Round the corner was The Derby Arms inn which was busy with pre-Xmas parties. I suppose that these establishments have to make their money when they can to balance out the quieter periods. Its a hard life in this trade nowadays.

Easy walking past the cricket and football grounds, ignoring the awful new development on the edge of town, had me home for an ice pack and pre-supper drink in front of the cozy log-burner. Xmas card writing can wait for another day. Don’t know whether I’ll be able to walk tomorrow.

At least I tried to slay the frustration if not the rat.

 

FAIRY HOLES CAVE – WHITEWELL.

My stereotypical image of prehistoric life is of a family sat eating round a fire, animal bones scattered about, in the mouth of a cave. Hence this morning I found myself sat in a cave entrance high above the River Hodder near Whitewell living the dream. Fairy Holes Cave was excavated in 1946 and more recently in 2013 and has revealed cremated human bones, animal bones and pieces of pottery dated to the early Bronze Age. I had not been here for maybe 35 years when I had come to show my children the virtually unknown site. I remember it took some finding and was on private land – it remains so to this day. Once located there are three caves in a limestone outcrop, the middle one being by far the most extensive. A high entrance leads to a 25m long cave which you need to stoop along until at the furthest point a phreatic tube allows you to stand again. My head torch only allowed a poor view of the features but I was hoping some photos would show more. Having satisfied my speleological desires I clambered up the hillside and continued on my walk through this limestone area of Bowland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The early morning start north of Chipping saw me parked up at the end of a bridleway, now a surfaced lane, leading to a prominent Lime-kiln on Knott Hill, this was used to provide lime for the fields and mortar. Throughout this walk little outcrops and quarries of limestone are discovered.

The tracks onwards to Lickhurst Farm were waterlogged reflecting the amount of rain we’ve experienced this summer. Got chatting to the weathered farmer, whom I knew from a previous life, about these isolated Bowland Hill farms. He is due for retirement soon and is one of the last generation born and bread in the area. So many buildings, farms and barns have been upgraded for a new breed of incomers. The property next to him which seemed derelict a couple of years ago when I passed through now offers luxury accommodation. We speculated, with a smile,  on how they will manage cut off in the next harsh winter – no doubt helicopters will be involved and the TV will report on a survival rescue.

Lickhurst Farm.

The next stretch through more  wet fields passed farmsteads, Dinkling Green and Higher Fence Wood, amidst curious Limestone Knolls surrounded by the Bowland Fells:  a juxtaposition  of grit and lime. Hereabouts I had heard of caves but never found them, I wandered about in vain for awhile and was on the verge of giving up when I spotted a fenced enclosure, a give away really. There it was – an obvious cave opening in an outcrop. It turned out to be a few cave entrances to a system which looked as though it extended down into deeper passages – not for me alone today. Has this cave a name I wonder?

Down the lane and across fields towards a small quarried outcrop which I remember bouldering on years ago and which is now in the definitive Lancashire Bouldering Guide named appropriately Reef Knoll Crag. Anyhow passing quickly onwards I arrive in the farm yard of New Laund where workers are busy sorting sheep. Nobody notices my diversion to Fairy Holes…

 

… my continuation over New Laund Hill gives views back to ‘The Jaws of Bowland’ with Mellor Knoll, Burholme Bridge and the Whitendale Fells prominent. Ahead is the deep wooded valley enclosing The Hodder with the slopes of Longridge Fell behind. Some creative navigation through Fair Oak put me on the right track to Greystonely, another farmstead with converted buildings, the one whose residents I knew were out so no cups of tea! The bridleway over a ford quickly took me back to my car and I was home for lunch.

 

*****

 

STOCKS RESERVOIR – THE LONG WAY ROUND.

 

There is a ‘new’ circular walk around Stocks Reservoir, promoted by United Utilities, from the Gisburn Forest car park and judging from the amount of people seen today very popular. I came across it on a walk from Slaidburn. New paths have been created giving a varied route with fantastic views and close to the water wildlife viewing hides are available. Stocks was constructed in the 1920/30s by the Fylde Water Board by flooding the upper Hodder valley, the surrounding farmland and the hamlet of Stocks-in-Bowland. 500 men worked there and a narrow gauge railway was built to transport materials. According to the information boards numerous attractive houses were lost but the church was rebuilt above the water. For more fascinating reservoir facts click here. 

I always enjoy the Roman road from Cow Ark to Newton, I drive this way to reach the Slaidburn area and as a scenic route to Yorkshire. As you crest the hill the Bowland Fells are prominent to the west and straight ahead is unmistakable Ingleborough, if you are lucky and the day clear. Today I was debating a walk up Croasdale to Bullstones but I knew I would be tempted onto the boulders which wouldn’t be good for my shoulder so I opted for a walk up to Stocks reservoir.

Slaidburn is an interesting old village to wander round. Most of the property has been owned by one family for over 200 years and little has changed, narrow streets, hand-loom weavers’ cottages, an historic pub, village shop, YHA, war memorial and the River Hodder. I must admit to have not visited the C15th church on the outskirts.

This morning I used the village car park and adjacent cafe as my starting point and walked out on a lane heading to Bentham which seemed very popular with cyclists who have a lot of climbing ahead. A style leads into a field and a climb over a hill which you realise is Limestone, there are a lot of Reef Knolls in the area. A string of Dales like meadows, parallel the Croasdale Brook, each having a stone barn in various states of repair. These reminded me of the phrase “were you born in a barn?” that was constantly directed at me as a child for leaving doors open.

The farmer from Croasdale was proud of his new concrete access road as he drove around on his buggy with trusted sheepdog.

Climbing out of the valley the views across Bowland improved with every step. Newly sheered sheep were out in the fields creating a loud communal baaaa. The short stretch of road walking was virtually traffic free and there seemed to be a ditch and dike running alongside, no idea of its origin. Up on Merrybent Hill Ingleborough raised its head again and the vast extent of Gisburn Forest was spread out below.

Bowland Fells.

Ingleborough.

Gisburn Forest.

A line of Alder Trees followed a stream downhill off the road and this is where I met up with the Stocks Circular walk and a stream of people. Flags had been laid over a boggy stretch and where last time I had precariously crossed the Hodder on stepping stones there was a new [2008] footbridge. Shamefully the stepping stones seemed to have disappeared.

Onwards and upwards past the deserted New House with its outside well. The lane leading down from here gave views of Stocks Reservoir with Totridge Fell in the background. All to soon I was into the forest but the path has been improved and winds its way nicely through mixed woodland.

Alongside the start of the water I went into one of the hides, opening up the flaps I had a perfect view of the Hodder snaking into the lake; unfortunately without binoculars I struggled to identify most of the birdlife except for the numerous Cormorants. Nonetheless it was a good place to eat my lunch.

Continuing on I reached the carpark with all the information boards and more people doing the circuit. The causeway was crossed, on the water little boats used by fishermen seemed to be having a hard time in the brisk wind. In the past I’ve walked on the road past the re-sited church but now a path winds off through the trees to keep closer to the reservoir. The next mile on open ground above the water gave magnificent views across the reservoir with the Chipping Fells ahead and behind to the forest. The signed walk brought me up close to the damn wall with the splendid waterboard house above. Not wanting to cross the damn I found a bit of a path upwards to join the track down to Hammerton Hall, a commanding three gabled Elizabethan house. After Holmehead Bridge crossing the Hodder fields headed towards Slaidburn. I was reminded of a previous trip down the Hodder when not checking the map we forded the Croasdale Brook in a direct line under the view of the farmer who said we were on private land and sent us, humiliated, back across the river. Today I found the correct path to the right to reach the bridge and road back into the village.

Sorry this has been a long-winded blow by blow account of today’s walk but there was so much of interest. I have every intention of returning soon, with binoculars, to walk that shorter signed Stocks circular.

 

FAIRSNAPE FELL.

The phone rang shortly after 7am. It was going to be a very hot day and Dave suggested a walk over Fairsnape, above Chipping, early on. I grabbed a drink and my camwera and we were soon climbing the old track up Saddle Fell with a lovely breeze keeping us cool. I can only surmise that this track was for sledging down peat from the cloughs above. Crossing a fence before the watershed the track has been ‘improved’ with stones and gives a good walking surface to the true summit of Fairsnape, 520m. The last few yards of bog have been paved with slabs though today everything was so dry one could walk anywhere. Taking out my camera to record the summit I found the battery completely flat hence no pictures to accompany this post. The above photo taken later from Longridge Fell shows Parlick and Fairsnape to the left with Saddle Fell central. Below is the village of Chipping and lower right you can see the Steam Fair site which is open all Spring Bank weekend and attracts visitors from far afield.

The walk along the ridge was as dry as I have known it, we cut downhill before the trigpoint. Skylarks were singing and fluttering high above and several pairs of Curlews were flying past with their haunting call. A small brown bird flew up from under my feet and there in the heather was the most perfect round little nest lined with grass and containing four brownish eggs, probably Meadow Pipit. I cursed the lack of my camera.

Skirting round the west side of Parlick we avoided the worst of the steep descent and contoured back under the fells to Saddle End and the car. We were back home for lunch before the hottest part of the day. Only the next day did I discover a tick embedded in my groin which I quickly and cleanly removed with my extracting device. These little menaces seem to be becoming more common in sheep rearing areas and as they have the potential to carry Lymes Disease care should be taken to avoid them. I was asking for trouble walking in shorts.