I have not pulled my boots on for a month or so. Today was too windy for cycling, so a short local walk was in order. Do you remember those days of lockdown when only short excursions were allowed – I stuck to the rules. I walked through the fields to Gill Bridge, on through Ferraris country hotel (doing takeaways only) and back along the almost empty road. I repeated the same walk or variations many times, using hand sanitiser after every gate latch or stile. Others had the same idea and the footpaths became well trodden and easy to follow.
We are two years on from there, most of us have had Covid and thankfully survived and life is moving on. We are however faced with another batch of problems, but let’s not dwell on those today. It’s time for some fresh air and exercise.
I repeat that same four mile route from my house. It does not look as though many others are walking the paths. They are overgrown and unloved. No need for hand sanitiser any more, did it ever do any good? The views have not changed, and I’m surrounded by the Bowland Fells and Longridge Fell. The clouds blow through in the blustery winds with odd bursts of sunshine.
I find chestnuts, ‘conkers’, where I hadn’t realised there were chestnut trees. A handful go into my pocket for planting later and while I’m at it collect some oak nuts, acorns. Beech nuts are in profusion along the roadside. Unidentified fungi are seen in the fields. Hawthorn berries add a touch of rouge to the hedgerows.
Into the outdoors.
Autumn’s fruitfulness is our bonus for this splendid short rural walk on my doorstep. My spirits are lifted, and our other problems put in their place.
I mustn’t leave it so long before I next tread these paths, they don’t deserve to be forgotten.
It is that sort of day; no wind, sun shining, rural Lancashire, the bike cruising effortlessly, no traffic, virtually no sounds. What more could you want. I’m on a linear canal ride where time has stood still, almost a parallel universe. The canal takes you along without you realising where you are in relation to familiar roads and settlements. I could be in Rotterdam or anywhere – sorry that is a link to a recent post. But I meet people, interesting people in this parallel universe.
At the start I chat to an elderly cyclist who is setting off on his electric bike admitting it is heavy, and you can’t pedal it if the battery dies on you. He suggests that if you are over eighty then this is for you – well I have a few years of proper pedalling ahead of me. He speeds off and I never catch up.
There was the lady by the swans, they are here every year she says, using the canal towpath as a route to and from her shops. How lucky she is and I think she knew. There were seven cygnets, all strengthening their wings ready for a first flight, enchanting.
I pass, incognito, through Lancaster City at times elevated above the streets and housing. I have a picture in my mind of what would happen if the banks broke. That must be linked to my childhood stories of the little Dutch guy with his thumb in the leaking dam. Lots of the converted canal warehouses are now student accommodations, how lucky are they. There are some iconic canal features along here where the horses could cross from one side of the towpath to the other side without unhitching. I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Now in the countryside I chat to a houseboat owner, probably a former dropout but now elevated in my esteem to an interesting canal dweller. He may have the advantage over the rest of us in our current cost of living crisis. How the worm turns. Drifter.
A dog walker talks of his previous life as a travelling rep. No more motorway hold-ups for him.
The towpath takes me through shady cuttings and open fields. I don’t look at my phone to see where I am, preferring to let things happen. I can’t get lost. A southerner recently moved to these parts is interested in my route, but I have the feeling he won’t be tackling anything more than a gentle walk to the pub. How judgemental is that?
It seems to take an age on rather overgrown and awkward paths, I’m not as agile on the bike as before, talking decades here, and I’m very wary of skidding off the path head first into the canal. I walk some of the way. Picking ripe sweet blackberries was a joy. I was in no rush.
Eventually I reach the junction with the Glasson canal built to link the port of Glasson with Lancaster. And then the railway came. More of that later.
I’m still in that peaceful easy feeling as I continue without meeting a soul through fields towards the coast. It was along here that I witnessed a heron trying to swallow a wriggly eel earlier this year.
Glasson is as busy as ever with motorcyclists and tourists of a certain age, so I head across the bridge to the little shop where I’m in time for one of their freshly baked cheese and onion slices. Sat in the sunshine with a coffee – perfect. It must be high tide as the lock gates to the ocean are open.
I’ve taken a long time to cycle 12 miles to Glasson, what with all the stops and awkward sections, but now it is head down on the old railway, which superceded the canal I’ve just been following. Back into Lancaster and on to Halton Station. That has set me up for autumn and thoughts of trans Pennine trails.
I switch the radio on when I’m in my car, but this time there is no déjà vu link to the Eagles from way back then. Here it is nonetheless. I may have played this before in other contexts, but it is a favourite of mine and perfectly reflected this sunny day’s ride. California dreaming.
I highly recommend this 20 mile off-road circuit, after a short ascent to reach the Lancaster Canal on the period Aqueduct it is flat all the way even if a little rough towards Galgate. The section to Glasson is totally rural and as peaceful as you could wish.
I arranged a walk with my son today whist he is off work and I took him on a repeat of one of his early childhood walks of which he had no recollection – the classic Nicky Nook circuit from Scorton.
This involves parking near the local parish church, St. Peter’s, famous for its steeple, a landmark visible from the M6 going north. The time was 3.00.
We didn’t mess about on field paths low down, just walked up the quiet lanes until there was access into GrIze Dale. I always enjoy the stroll up this deep wooded valley, today there was only a trickle of water in the beck. The Grizedale Reservoir was the lowest I have ever seen it.
Walking up the gentle side of the hill we started to meet more people, but generally the place was deserted.
That’s not the top.
We stopped at the freshly painted trig point to take in the views over the Bowland hills, the motorway snaking north, Morecambe Bay and the Fylde. That is why most people come up here.
Down the steep side and into Scorton where we take the lane to the church whose clock now says 5.30.
An innovative sign.
Time for a beer and a Chinese meal back in Garstang. He still didn’t remember the childhood walk but enjoyed the excursion, it’s good to share.
My son had never been to see the Bleasdale Circle despite having walked around the Bleasdale estate since he was a young child. In fact when I think about it, we pushed him round in a ‘buggy’ when he was barely one. I had to remind him that was 50 years ago!
I must have a dozen or more posts regarding Bleasdale and have mentioned the Bleasdale Circle several times. Things didn’t look right today as we took the concessionary path towards the circle – the trees which enclosed it have virtually gone, I had to take a second look. As we came closer it was obvious that there had been severe storm damage since I was last here and the remaining trees harvested. To be honest the whole site looked a mess, all very disappointing, it’s going to need some loving care to make it presentable once more. The concrete inner ‘posts’ were still in place, but the interpretation board was undecipherable. The views from up high on the fells will no longer show the prominent circle of trees marking the site. See my previous photos here.
I quote from previous posts –
The circles are Bronze Age and were originally oak posts, an outer and inner ring. Discovered in 1898 and subsequently excavated they yielded a central burial chamber with cremation urns and ashes. These are now on display in the Harris Museum in Preston. The inner ring of wooden posts have been replaced with concrete posts. The orientation of the posts within the circle of the Bleasdale Hills may suggest some deep reason for their siting here.
We walked on around the estate at a slow pace as the temperature soared. Our plan was to finish the walk just before six when the Cross Keys Inn at nearby Whitechapel would be opening. The plan worked, and we enjoyed a beer and a good meal.
It’s two months since I was last able to do a walk out of Mark Sutcliffe’s guide book. Finding one locally I strode out today on his Jeffrey Hill chapter. The suggestion was to park at Little Town Dairy, a farm shop, nursery and café. I feel guilty using a businesses’ car park if I’m not giving them any business so I parked by the road higher up on the route, which was to prove tiresome later in the day.
I had reservations about the initial route through the upmarket barn conversions at Dilworth Brow Farm, previously a run down property. There was no need to worry, the path through was obvious, and even the local dog was friendly. Every farm seems to be erecting holiday lodges, Is this a result of the recent ‘staycation’ mentality?
An uncertain start.
Once into fields I could enjoy views over the Ribble Valley and distant Pendle as I dropped to an ancient bridleway. Being enclosed and sunken this was once a boggy mess, but drainage has been installed and an upgraded grit surface added. This was only a short section of the right of way, one wonders why certain paths are improved (a further one later) when others are neglected.
Note the size of the left-hand gatepost.
I made the obligatory short diversion to view the Written Stone, I have written of this before,excuse the pun. A car passes down the farm lane, I thought I recognised friends from years ago and regretted not stopping them. As I walked through the tidy environs of Cottam House I asked a man about the history of the place, he turned out to be the son of the above couple. So we had a catch-up, I passed on my regards and walked on.
The Written Stone.
This was the start of a slow climb back up to the ridge of Longridge Fell. Rough ground skirting the golf club and then the road up to Jeffrey Hill at Cardwell House. A large walking group was coming past and didn’t seem over friendly, head down mentality. There was a straggler taking some interest in his surroundings. We ended up in a long conversation about all things, as he said “it’s not dark till late”. I felt he had lost connection with the route march he had been on. Nobody came looking for him.
Up to Jeffrey Hill.
The Ribble Valley and Pendle.
No time for stragglers.
I took a picture of the iconic view which I mentioned in a recent post. A ‘glass wall’ has replaced the iron railings depicted in the painting I own from 40 years ago.
That view from Jeffrey Hill.
Nearby was a bench for refreshments. Some stones had been intricately carved as part of an art sculpture from 2014, It was a shame they removed the star of the installation, the Sun Catcher.
Remains of the sculpture installation.
Now steeply downhill, look at the contours, ending up on the road at Thornley Hall. The ford leading off the road was surprisingly full. The next bit of track starts as a track but quickly becomes an overgrown narrow path, the book advises a stick for hacking back the vegetation. I happily swashbuckled my way along and at the end came onto another strange short stretch of gritted path.
Looking back up to Jeffrey Hill.
The listed C18th Thornley Hall.
A promising start to the bridleway…
…soon becomes this…
…and then unexpectedly this.
Familiar lanes took me past Wheatley Farm and a house that always has a splendid floral display. Onto the busy main road where care is needed on the bend. I was glad to be back in the peaceful fields of Chipping Vale under the Bowland Hills. Heading towards Little Town Dairy where I could have parked at the start, but no I was faced with another steep climb back onto the fell. I reckon I had climbed over 1000ft in the 7 miles which took me 4 hours including all those stops.
Wheatley Farm, 1774.
One has to spend one’s money on something. 57 has gone shopping.
Parlick and Fairsnape.
There was one more encounter at Sharples House. The farmer there had previously talked of having the largest cheese press in Lancashire, I believed him. In the past many farms in the area made their own cheese, tasty Lancashire. Today he seemed in a good mood, so I enquired further, and he took me to see the stone, it was indeed large and must have weighed a ton. He explained that the house was from the late 17th century. A former occupant, a Peter Walken (1684-1769) had been a nonconformist minister as well as a farmer. Uniquely he kept a series of diaries, most have been lost but two from 1733-34 have been found and published by a researcher from Preston museum. The present farmer was contacted and was able to see the journals but described them as boring, though they must have given an insight into farming life in the first half of the 18th century. He also told me of a mystery from the last century when two thieves broke into the house killing the farmer, but the daughter perhaps escaped hiding in an adjacent barn. One wonders how much local history has been lost.
There is another mystery just along the lane at Birks Farm – what is this structure in the wall built for? I should have asked the last farmer, next time.
Up the steep lane, over the last stile and I finish this splendid walk back at my car overlooking Longridge.
Longridge Fell looking across the green Chipping Vale towards the Trough of Bowland.
At the risk of raising the blood pressure of my, environmentally sensitive, readers – read on.
Following on from my brush with Covid I have not kept up with the walks featured in the Lancashire Cicerone Guide book. I hope to resume them shortly. Today I needed a gentle leg stretcher – Longridge Fell always has something to offer. I’ve not done a ‘litter pick’ up there for several weeks so that became the object of the morning’s stroll.
Parking up I was immediately confronted with discarded pizza boxes and drink bottles , also strangely two plastic motor oil containers. There is a litter bin 10 metres away, though admittedly it is usually full to overflowing. Not a good start to the day.
I set off on my walk intending to clear this mess up when I return, it won’t all go in my bag. Longridge Fell was bone dry making for easy walking though the threats of moorland fires must be high. I noticed the bilberries were very small perhaps a reflection of our lack of rainfall this June and July. The other thing that struck me was that the heather was already blooming – I seem to have missed some seasons this year.
A sad finding on the ridge was a recently dead Kestrel. I could see no signs of it being shot, but I did wonder afterwards about possible poisoning. Should I have picked it up and sent to the RSPB or police for toxicology tests?
Up to the trig point and back in a circle I half filled my bag with the usual doggy poo bags, drinks cartons and food wrappers. The short stretch on the road at the end provided an equal amount of rubbish dumped out of passing cars. All I had to do was pick up the rest of that rubbish in the car park.
This is a local beauty spot with a fine view of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills so there are always cars parked here. In lock-down it was a free for all with all the verges taken over, things are back to normal now. Today I noticed two artists busy painting the scene. I wandered over to have a chat and admire their work. One was using watercolours and the other acrylic, they both complained about the high temperature affecting their paints. What a talent to be able to capture that view with a few brushstrokes. I wish I had asked them to email me a copy of their finished paintings. That reminds me, I have on my study wall a watercolour of the very same scene done for me by a Mr. A Long, an artist who lived in Longridge 40 odd years ago.
Mr Long’s painting.
What a contrast from two gents fully appreciating their environment to the louts who drive up here with their takeaways and don’t take them away.
A couple of weeks go by with more minor injuries preventing walking far – so time to get back on the bike. The problem was where should I go – my easy routes are becoming repetitive. After a few days bouldering up at Craig Y Longridge I feel rather stiff and lethargic this morning. Before you ask, although walking is painful I am able to do low level bouldering as long as I don’t jump off or more likely fall off. Anyhow, I have survived and need a longer day’s exercise, the wind has dropped so out comes the cycle, or rather in goes the cycle, into the cavernous boot of my estate car. No need to dismantle anything which could later cause me problems of a mechanical nature. Every cycle ride I do my heart is in my mouth expecting some failure which my limited mechanical abilities could not solve, leading to a long walk. I’m surprised there isn’t a breakdown service available to cyclists.
I’ve spotted, on the cycling map, a Route 90 that will give me a circular ride after I’ve progressed up Morecambe Bay to Carnforth. As I said, feeling lethargic I didn’t get going until lunchtime but once more I’m in the parking at old Halton station. I grab a coffee from the convenient snack van ready for the off along the familiar lines through Lancaster to Morecambe…
I’ve not felt well for a couple of days, head cold, sore throat, chesty cough, dizziness,bowel and bladder irritation and as I commence to write up yesterday’s completed excursion here this morning I feel distinctly worse. Time for a Covid test.
Another walk below 5 miles from Mark Sutcliffe’s excellent Lancashire guide, this will be the last of his easy walks to test out my knee. The train took some of the strain today. I parked up outside Whalley rail station next to the impressive many arched brick viaduct. This is the longest railway viaduct in the county. It has 48 arches and two have been built to reflect the Abbey in architecture. It took seven million bricks, and they were all made on site of local clay. I hope it will show up later on my photos from on high. The platform slowly filled with shoppers and football fans heading to Blackburn. Being a Bank Holiday I was anxious that the trains would be running but the 11.30 arrived almost on time. It trundled slowly across the viaduct with the River Calder way below. Five minutes later I was the only one alighting at Langho station. The village had a small but colourful floral display.
My walk nearly came to an abrupt end on the narrow clough leading on from Whinney Lane. The enclosed path ran alongside a stream and a storm damaged tree blocked the route. I was glad no one was able to see me crawling through the fallen branches. I only just made it and then realised a family above were watching my antics with interest. Somewhat disillusioned the father made an effort to get through but then decided it was too difficult for his wife and children, and they retreated – I pushed on.
Jungle warfare – there’s a man crawling in there somewhere
Lanes then led up to York, a cluster of houses and an inn, which seems to have had a renaissance as a gastropub. Open ground with gritstone outcrops formed a ridge which would have been good to follow, but my way took me over and down to the dam of Dean Clough Reservoir and across to farm lanes weaving through these hidden valleys. Ahead was always the distant Pendle Hill but nearer at hand was a pointed peak which I later identified as Bowley Hill, there was no obvious way up it and as my knee was hurting I didn’t feel like adventuring.
The ongoing lane was closed due to works on the bridge over Dean Brook, more contortions were needed to outflank the blocked way. Fittingly I next passed Sunny Bank Farm as sheep and lambs were relaxing in the warm sunshine. Just emerge yourself into Lancashire’s finest. A bit of naughty signage, Private No right of Way, had me doubting the onward path but there was an obvious track up to a stile and out onto more open moor. I could have reached this point easily, and possibly more scenically, from the reservoir dam. I took the less obvious way through the woods and emerged onto Moor Lane. I thought I had been here before on either Wainwright’s Way or my Lancashire Monastic Way. Pendle was again prominent ahead as was the transmitter on Whalley Nab. Over to the left was Kemple End on Longridge Fell and the hazy Bowland Hills behind.
The lucky young occupants of the cottage above Nab Side Farm were chatty despite being engrossed in their extensive hillside garden. A little farther round the hillside I took a break overlooking Whalley and its viaduct.
An enclosed and steep monk’s trod challenged my knee ligaments on the way down to the elegant bridge over the Calder.
I passed the old Abbey corn mill, now an apartment block and I noticed for the first time the water wheel preserved within. Somehow I missed the Abbey’s gateways and went through the streets, past the ancient parish church, back to the Station to complete my afternoon’s stroll.
Most people climb Nicky Nook, north of Garstang, for the view; Lancashire’s coastal plain, Morecambe Bay and the southern Lakes. I’ve been up it many times and that was my intention today, the sun was shining, and the weather set fair. On parking, I did a time check on St. Peter’s Church spire, 10.45. Yes, this is the familiar spire seen as you speed up the M6. Built in 1878 by the well known Lancaster architects Paley and Austin.
I’d walked a few hundred yards when it started to rain. I’m on the Wyre Way again. By then I was alongside the squat Wesleyan Methodist Church, built in 1843 when Methodism was strong in the area, there was no pub in the village. Here was a map of the three churches in Scorton – the next, the catholic St. Mary and St. James, 1861, was just up the lane. It seems half hidden behind the substantial priest’s house.
The three churches in order of appearance…
I’d become distracted by church history. Time to get going on my walk, another from Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone Lancashire guide. Crossing the motorway, a couple asked me the way to Nicky Nook – I pointed them in the right direction even though that was not my route today, I was going round the back on quiet lanes. Conversation drifted to the weather, we are British, after all. She postulated that as we were close to Morecambe, the tide was probably coming in – hence the rain. I’m still pondering on that.
Going my own way, I passed by the Wyresdale Estate offering a café, wedding venue, fishing, woodworking, personal training and much more. I’m not totally comfortable with commercialism of the countryside. Brought up tramping freely on the moors, wild camping and nature watching, it doesn’t fit easily into my psyche. But judging by the number of SUV’s parked up, there is profit to be made through nature.
The rest of the morning passed as I used public ways around the back of Nicky Nook. But trouble was brewing when a large gate appeared across the track I was following, a way through was grudgingly available to the side. Timid walkers may have turned back at that point, which was probably the intention of the owners. This farm then took it upon themselves to divert the footpath away from their property, now a country residence. The sign said the right of way still existed through their yard, although that was contradicted by a sign saying guard dogs running loose. I felt pressurised to follow the diversion, which in fact turned out to be quite pleasant. But the point is that the landowners rather than pay for an official diversion, which they may not be granted, act in an almost threatening way. ‘We are rich, and we don’t want you on our land!’ I am concerned that Lancs County Council, funded by the public, are apparently complicit with this outdated view. An update to Mark’s guide is needed.
Rant over and I soon made good progress on my quiet way into the foothills, I still hadn’t met another walker. You are right on the edge of the Bleasdale Fells up here. I surprised myself at the speed I reached the trig point on Nicky Nook. It was here that I met with the steady stream of people walking up from Scorton, header photo. Additional adornments are starting to appear on trig points which affront my personal sensitivity. I would have removed them if I’d been alone, but it felt churlish to do so in the company of the other eager summiteers. There was little view, it was freezing, so I quickly turned around and set off down to Grizedale.
Edge of Bleasdale.
The artificial reservoir looked black and barren, but the valley lower down, with its sparkling beck and native trees, was a delight. I struck up to Higher Lane, popular with hired dog walkers, Slean End and through the fields to the road where I’d parked. Just then, the sun came out.
I had time for a good coffee from the Covid Citroën parked up in the village.
Sunday and I take the easy way out again as lunchtime comes around. I pick another walk from Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone Lancashire guide. Not wishing to drive far, I find a low level circuit from Great Eccleston in the Fylde. It turns out to be one of the flattest routes in the county, with only a few feet of ascent on the return leg. It was good to get this rural walk out of the way before the cattle are put out into the fields.
My plan when I revisited this book was to maybe do one walk a week as an incentive to get me walking farther, but somehow I’m up to number four in just over a week. So far I’m impressed with Mark’s style, he has chosen well, and his directions have been spot on – suitable for the casual walker. Today’s walk was complicated in places, and yet I didn’t put a foot wrong.
I find a place to park in the main street only to see it is an electric charging point. Having moved the car I walk out of the village past the old pinfold, on across the main road and down a well-used, dog walkers mostly, path to the river Wyre. Here is a fairly unique private toll bridge next to the Cartford Inn. The ‘cart – ford’ prior to the original C18th bridge. In the grounds of the inn are modern staycation ‘pods’. I recognise these from a walk I found for myself last winter, or was it the one before – the pandemic seems to have confused my recall.
Easy walking along the riverbank to a footbridge where I crossed to the road near the extensive and impressive, possibly haunted, grounds of White Hall. I often wonder who owns these multi-million pound properties – Russian oligarchs?
Using farm tracks, I joined The Wyre Way, linking farms in this flat rural landscape. This is the way I should have come on my disastrous attempt on this section when I almost drowned and then lost my map, leaving me with no alternative but to follow the road.
The guidebook said, “head for the grain silo” and it was correct, the silo stood out across the field, one of the tallest I have seen. In the distance were the Bleasdale fells, everywhere else was flat, a strange landscape for one accustomed to the hills.
Turnover Hall was next. There were duck ponds with piles of grain to fatten the birds before they are shot. The Hall is surrounded by hundreds of caravans, whether for sale or in storage I couldn’t make out. Oh, and just for good measure, the obligatory junk waiting to be recycled.
I rejoin the Wyre embankment and walk into St. Michael’s, arriving at the road bridge near the chocolate box cottages and the Medieval church across the way.
You know I like an interesting church when I see one, this one is Grade I listed. It is thought a church existed here, near a safe river crossing, from 640AD. The Domesday book mentions a church on the same site. The present structure dates from the C15th. When you enter the church, the most obvious and unusual sound is the loud ticking of a clock, the giant pendulum hanging on one side of the tower. There are two naves and a northern Chapel. This Butler chapel has older Medieval stained-glass fragments, seemingly randomly incorporated into the windows. In the same window is a C16th Flemish sheep shearing scene. In the west wall is a striking modern window depicting the parable of the ‘sower’. Outside is a ‘Norman’ door and an ancient mounting stone. In the graveyard are three unusually shaped graves, these are the ‘Soldiers Stones’ dating from 1643 when a Spanish ship was wrecked on the Wyre estuary and thought to be for Spanish sailors.
Time to move on, and I take a lane heading towards a large modern house. Whoever built it had visions of grandeur now biting the dust, the house being an empty shell.
The rest of the afternoon I follow drainage dykes across the landscape, eventually to rejoin the Wyre for the last time before re-entering Great Eccleston. The two bulls face each other across the high-street, with a period Austin7 on show.
That’s quite a lot for a lazy Sunday walk in this quiet corner of west Lancashire.
I don’t often stand on the summit of Parlick Pike. If I’m heading up to Fairsnape and beyond, I take the easier traversing path bypassing it to the west, overlooking Bleasdale. But today I’m following another of Mark Sutcliffe’s walks from his Cicerone guide. I’m having a lazy week and doing walks without any planning on my part, just follow the guide step by step. Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman and scholar. His extensive writings showed learning and eloquence and the term Cicerone, to guide and explain, came to be. Hence, the name of the guidebook dynasty started by Walt Unsworth and Brian Evans.
So I’m stood on the pike, 432m, the wind is trying to blow me off it, but the sky is clear, and the sun is bright. A perfect Spring day. The hard work is done, I can enjoy the rest of the afternoon on one of my favourite walks. This circuit used to be my once a week fell run years ago, I’m just pleased that I arrived here today without stopping, well apart from those sneaky photo stops. Strangely, I nearly always did it the other way around – I’ve looked into the reasons for choice of route recently.
Down into the dip and then a choice of routes either side of the wall, dogs one side and not the other, but I never understood which or why. The wall is a masterpiece of construction, stretching up towards the summit of Fairsnape. I remember once seeing a squirrel running along the top of it, bound for Fiensdale?, there is not a tree in sight along the ridge. These walls and fences are excellent handrails when the fell is in thick mist, which it often is. The wind is too strong for the parapenters or gliders, so I have the space and the views down into the bowl of Bleasdale to myself.
The grass has taken on that dry straw colour regularly seen after the winter months when the sun shines on the steep slopes. I was so taken by it a few years ago that I asked a local artist, Rebecca Wilmer, if she could interpret it on canvas. She knew exactly what I meant, and in fact had some slides she had taken of the very hillside matching mine. A commission was agreed, and I proudly have the painting in my living room, not everyone sees it in my eyes or the artist’s, but I saw it up here today.
There is a distant haze from the summit of Fairsnape, 510m, but I know where Blackpool Tower, Morecambe Power Station, the Isle of Man and Black Coombe should be, so I don’t have to linger in the biting wind. Shapes emerge from the summit shelter, where they have been enjoying a sheltered lunch. I was last up here in June last year, when I spent a cold night bivvying near the cairn. But of course this is not ‘the summit’, to visit it you have to run the gauntlet of the local peat bogs in an easterly direction until some stone flags appear leading you to the highest point, 520m. Since my last visit, a large cairn has been built and there is a board telling you how efforts are being made to stabilise the peat hags and reduce the water run off.
It’s all downhill, literally, from here. A good manufactured path leads to a fence from where sunken tracks head on down Saddle Side. I pass the ruin with a tragic history. It is good to be out of the wind, skylarks are singing and once the fields are reached the sound of curlews and lapwings stir strong memories of the upland countryside of my youth. A dip into the valley of Chipping Brook and then the Wolfen estate road leads me back to my car. Wolfen Hall lies below Wolf Fell – possibly the last stronghold of wolves into the C15th.
I followed Cicerone’s guide easily, but I had to branch off to visit the highest point. Mark does not include this in his instructions, but his map does. Ah well, people will find their own way.
Decision time – straight up.
Parlick summit with Fairsnape behind.
That dry yellow grass.
Fairsnape summit’s furniture.
Boot sucking peat.
A reminder that the area was once a military firing range.
Point 520 m, with Totridge Fell in the distance.
The tragic scene on Saddleside.
Spring in the valley.
Artistic impression from Parlick. Rebecca Walmer. 2010.
Last year, when it was published, I ordered a copy of the new Cicerone guide book, Walking in Lancashire, by Mark Sutcliffe, I didn’t expect to find much new ground in its 40 walks that I hadn’t covered, but I thought it would be an incentive to get out in what still was some degree of Covid lockdown. Maybe one a week. Well, all that was scuppered by my plantar fasciitis, which virtually stopped me walking from August onwards. I would have been better with ‘Cycling in Lancashire’. Time has moved on, it is now March 2022, my heel is slowly improving, and I want to expand my walking distances and venues. I’ve been up and down Longridge Fell too many times.
The other day I picked up the Cicerone guide from my pile of ‘books to read’ and decided to start working my way through its offerings of day walks. A bit of a project, as my friend Sir Hugh would say. Opening the book, Walk 1 happened to cover Beacon Fell and the Brock valley, an area I know well, but it would provide a good introduction to the guide and Mark’s style of writing.
“Park at Brock Bottom. 5 miles with 800ft of ascent. 3hr.”
“This pretty route combines a riverside woodland walk through an intimate valley with a steady climb to the modest 266 m summit of Beacon Fell, which punches well above its weight when it comes to expansive views”
I wasn’t confident of those expansive views when I set off this morning in low cloud and moist air. The last two Covid years you wouldn’t have been able to park anywhere near Beacon Fell, but today only a couple of cars were in the Brock Mill picnic spot. In fact, I walked for 4 miles without seeing a soul. The riverside woodland walk was indeed a pretty route. The lively river Brock and the ancient mixed woodland was alive with birdsong. I reckon I can recognise most species on sight, but how I wished I could recognise their hidden songs.
A stretch of boardwalk looked decidedly dodgy.
Passing through the Waddecar Scout camp, which seems to have ready erected tents, I was wary of the flying tomahawks.
Most of this walk I did in June 2021and knowing the terrain, I was tempted to go my own way, but a bit of discipline made me follow Mark’s route – his directions were spot on. This led me to use a footpath up Gill Barn Clough, never before used. If you look carefully you can see the remains of the barn still visible under the moss which cloaks everything in the valley.
Emerging out of the clough into empty fields, the panorama of the Bleasdale Fells stole the show, as is mentioned in the guidebook.
I had never noticed this lone tree on the skyline before.
I was soon climbing up onto Beacon Fell. No sooner than they had cleared the damage from the storms at the end of 2021, then along came more storms last month, bringing down more trees. The views from the trig point were, as expected, a little hazy, definitely punching below weight. I couldn’t resist a coffee at the café, one must support local businesses. A couple sat on the next table described how their Alsatian had been spooked out by the coin encrusted crocodile.
Down through the new plantations, one a remembrance wood, into the coppiced willows and back to the car park where D of E Award expeditions were resting up – red, blue and yellow groups. They had a wet camp last night, but I hoped tonight would be better for them. They were all in good cheer.
I’m glad I’m coming home to a hot bath and a comfortable bed. A good introduction to Cicerone’s Lancashire walks.
The last four days I’ve been up on Longridge Fell, four short walks. Today, the weather is too bad to contemplate going outdoors. Looking out of my window, I can now just see the lower slopes of the fell above the roofs of the ghastly building site. In the fields opposite, soon all will be brick.
Saturday, I was feeling stiff from our excursions on Crookrise the day before. But the afternoon was too good to miss, so I thought I would have another look at the tree damage on the ridge path through the forest. Nothing much has changed, and it is still difficult and awkward to follow. In one or two places, a chain saw, person unknown, has been in action to cut a way through.
I met a chap and his energetic Springer Spaniel walking far quicker than I over the fell, a quick hello was all I managed before he sped into the trees. On the return journey, a recognisable Springer appeared at my heals and yes, looking behind was his master rapidly gaining ground. To cut a long story short, after some pleasant conversation, with the chap not the dog, it turned out he’d suffered a heart attack several years ago and following bypass surgery in Blackpool made a good recovery. His daily heart physio was a brisk walk on the fell, I applauded him on his fitness and expect to bump into him again if I can keep up. A positive lesson to us all.
Sunday came and almost went before I roused myself and suggested to Mike an afternoon stroll around the Cowley Brook Plantation on the edge of the fell. We caught up on our goings-on and enjoyed the warmth of the weak sunshine. We used some firebreaks through the conifers to the lower water intake and then followed the lively stream back up the hill. All very pleasant in this United Utilities land recently opened up for public access.
Monday morning, after arriving back from shopping, JD was on the phone stating confidently that there was a two-hour break in the rain and proposing a walk on the fell. He is not usually that optimistic. A quick change and we were leaving his house for a well-used walk along the northern base of the fell. The fields were decidedly boggy, and we often seemed to go astray on occasions linking up the farms. In the past, we have had trouble through the pheasant shooting woods where fences seem to cut through the rights of way, today was no exception with the odd fallen tree also blocking our way.
But what was to follow was unbelievable. The path goes steeply up the hillside through the woods to reach the golf course. We found the majority of the trees snapped or uprooted, a scene of complete devastation. I was too shocked to take my camera out. We battled on to find even worse, with a new sign saying the way was closed due to the tree damage. It was too late to go back, so a wall and fence were carefully climbed and then the worst of the devastation avoided reaching the empty golf course closed due to waterlogging. Of course, where we exited was a notice saying the way was closed. Too true. By then, our two-hour slot was over, the rain followed us all the way back to town. We were thoroughly soaked by then, and I just wanted to get home for a hot bath.
Tuesday and the sun appeared again. My lunchtime walk up the fell was accompanied by the sounds of joyful skylarks, a sure sign of spring. I had the trig point on Spire Hill to myself, which is unusual these days. As well as the Bowland Fells across Chipping Vale, the more distant Yorkshire three peaks were hazily visible on the horizon. I framed a photo of the trig point for a new desktop background. My usual ‘secret’ path back through the forest was also disrupted by fallen trees, It will be years before many of the damaged trees up here will be cleared. The car park at Cardwell House was filling as I arrived back.
Counting Crookrise on the Friday, that’s five out of five. Not bad for this time of year. Today I’m content just to walk up to the supermarket.
There is a lot of bad weather about. Heavy rain most of the weekend and this morning, with storms forecast for the rest of the week. But there was a glimpse of sun this afternoon and I had something in mind. A post by Eunice (more of her later) and a comment from Sharon reminded me that it was snowdrop season, as if I didn’t know – having included a picture of a clump in one of my recent posts. Snowdrops are one of the first Spring flowers to bloom, helping us out of the winter gloom with shiny white petals. I wanted to view a larger expanse such as at Lytham Hall or Bank Hall, Bretherton, but I knew of a ‘secret’ place nearby.
Leagram Hall sits on the hillside above our lovely local village of Chipping, originally a lodge for the Medieval Deer Park. It was replaced by stone structures in the C18-19th when the Weld family inherited the estate from the Shireburns (of Stonyhurst). The present house was built in 1965 by the Weld-Blundell family. I’ve never visited the house but often walk past on a bridleway through the ancient deer park. I knew of a walled dell within their grounds which is renowned for snowdrops at this time of year. I was heading there today.
The elusive Leagram Hall.
In the parkland there were signs of tree damage from the storms of last year. An ancient oak was lying on the ground. How the mighty are fallen.
Farther up the lane and over the wall I had my first glimpse of the snowdrop spread. I was keen to get a closer look and even thought about climbing over the wall. Just then a woman appeared from the direction of the house. After a greeting and comments on the weather I asked her if she lived here. Yes she did. (She must be one of the Weld-Blundells!) I stated I had come to see and photograph the snowdrop display and wondered whether there was any chance of getting closer. She explained the gardens were private but then proceeded to show me a hidden entrance, said be careful and left me to explore.
Over the wall.
Inside the sanctuary.
I could have finished there but as the weather was improving I decided to continue my walk up the lane towards the Bowland Hills. Laund Farm, (laund was a grassy area in a deer park) home to a large herd of Blue Faced Leicester sheep. They pride themselves in the quality of the sheep milk cheese they produce. There was a new batch of lambs to boost the flock.
Pendle and Longridge Fell across the ‘laund’
Since I was last this way a new sign has been erected by the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, along with its dedication to some local footpath activist. I’m always pleased to see these classy additions to the countryside and at one time considered tracking them all down – a mammoth task, no doubt completed by someone.
I continued on past the scattering of buildings at Birchen Lee, all slowly becoming more gentrified. The access lane from there onwards has been recently improved giving easy walking to the road under Saddle Fell, the starting point for one of my favourite ways of climbing onto the Fairsnape-Totridge fells. Today I ignored the heights and strolled down to a junction of interestingly named lanes. Some research needed there.
I didn’t drop down to Wolfen Mill, originally Dewhurst’s spindle and fly works supplying the burgeoning local cotton mills but continued down the steep lane, Saunders Rake. Heading down to Chipping this passes the site of the Bond’s cotton spinning mill which later became Tweedy’s foundry, now occupied by a cheese factory. Farther on is the millpond for the still standing Kirk Mill, originally a cotton spinning business and later part of the chair making empire. There is a wealth of historical information on Chipping’s industrial past at https://kirkmill.org.uk/
Most of the chair factory across the road has been demolished and there were plans to develop the whole site into a hotel and venue complex. Not much seems to be happening on that front – we are all in for some difficult economic years.
Chipping was sleepy today. The Cobbled Corner Café, thankfully recently reopened, but closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I shall have to have a cycle ride another time for cups of tea and toast. I remembered the last time I came this way and popped into the graveyard to pay my respects to Lizzie Dean’s grave under of the old yew tree.
A good use of a February afternoon and I would recommend this modest circuit, all on tarmac, for keeping your feet dry at this time of year. There is far more to discover in Chipping than I have mentioned.
But beware storms Dudley and Eunice are on their way…
A couple of weeks ago I wrote of the devastating storm damage in the forests on Longridge Fell, well today I witnessed the same on Beacon Fell. The difference being that here, as it is a public park, the foresters have been busy clearing much of the damage making the place safe for the public. I imagine that at the time of the storms, early December, the public would have been excluded.
I only came up here this afternoon for a short walk, I seem to have been up and down Longridge Fell most days during the holidays – time for a change of scenery.
The sun was trying to make an appearance.
Parked up in the little quarry on the quieter east side of the fell, a modest circuit was completed from there. The little pond was looking particularly attractive in the low light. I wish I could paint. Round the corner piles of cut timber started to appear and it was obvious that there had been a lot of storm damage in amongst the trees. Logging machinery was scattered about, being a Sunday, nobody was working. I expect that when they replant, they will use more sustainable native species. Where there is destruction, there is hope.
I had been told by Clare, of Slate Poems fame, of another decorated Xmas Tree on the fell. I was up here to find it. Parking was difficult on this fine Sunday afternoon, remember the chaotic parking situation in our earlier lockdowns. The good weather had brought lots of families out at the start of the Christmas Holidays.
Would you believe it? As I walked through the gate onto the fell, I bumped into Clare herself exercising her beautiful Collie.
I normally take the more northerly track overlooking Chipping Vale, I call it the ‘panoramic balcony track’, but there is also a track following markers going straight up the fell leading to boggy terrain, best avoided. Incidently this track goes through the site of some Bronze Age hut circles and burial grounds, I have tried unsuccessfully to locate these on the ground in the past.
This was the way to the decorated tree and the way I followed today. The stone cairn has had an addition of balanced stones, often seen on rocky beaches, I suspect they won’t survive a winter storm. Not far past the cairn is the tree. It was decorated with more environmentally friendly items; fir cones, wooden ornaments and nut strings for the birds. Satisfied with my ‘find’ I continued on through those forementioned bogs to regain the regular track, which does have its own boggy moments.
The other Xmas Tree with its tinsel and Angel topping was passed, and I reached the Trig point. There were good views, but nothing compared to yesterday’s cloud inversion. Circling through the forest, I was surprised at the number of trees that must have come down in our recent storms.
Once looking across the Ribble Valley, Pendle and Samlesbury there was a repeat of the cloud inversion * in a southerly direction.
* Cloud inversions take place when the temperature is warmer higher up – such as on a hill or mountain – than it is down at the bottom of a valley
The colder air at the lower level traps mist and fog creating the impression of mountain summits floating above the clouds.
I almost never set forth yesterday, the mist was so thick down in Longridge, but I wanted to continue with my renewed walking therapy. Friends had called in for coffee, so it was 2pm when I emerged out of the worst of the fog to park on Jeffrey Hill. The whole of Chipping Vale was a sea of cloud, with only the higher tops of the Bowland Fells visible across the way. My route up the fell was shrouded in mist, giving a spooky feel to the place in the low sunlight. I had the feeling that I was being followed, but no one else was about. As I climbed the air cleared and soon I was above in blue sky with the ridge of Longridge Fell visible ahead.
At the summit was a lady with her Collie dog, she had been there awhile, enthralled by the views in front of her. It was indeed spectacular. Thick cloud filled all the valleys, and there above were the tops of the fells in sparkling clarity. Beacon Fell, Fairsnape, the Croasdale Fells and Waddington Fell. And in the distance the Yorkshire Three Peaks. All islands in the clouds. Looking down onto the mist I thought there was the arc of a broken spectre, but unfortunately it never really materialised.
Another walker arrived with his Springer Spaniel. Whilst the three of us chatted about the spectacle, the two dogs ran themselves ragged in a game of tag. I stayed longer than usual before drifting away as more people started arriving. I continued taking photographs as I came down the fell. By the time I had reached the road, a full moon rose from the east as the sun set in the west.