Category Archives: Bowland Fells.

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.

 

Around the block.

I can’t believe I was climbing a few days ago in a T shirt as this morning the cold dull weather continues towards Easter. I rouse myself to do a favourite short walk from home to see what is happening in the countryside. Longridge Fell looks broodingly down on the start of my walk into a field full of seagulls, they are unusual so they must be feeding on something – possibly recent muck spreading.

A glance at the 1:25000 map shows many small ponds in these fields, they are the remains of Marl Pits dug in the 19th century to provide lime rich clay for spreading on the fields to improve the soil. They now provide an interesting habitat for wildlife and plants. One near here unfortunately is used by the duck shooting fraternity, today the mallards were paddling happily. A couple of larger ponds used to keep my children happy for hours fishing for god knows what.

I passed a few metal gates which are for access to a line of aqueducts crossing this area, the Thirlmere aqueduct to Manchester and the Hodder aqueduct to Blackpool. Generally the former has black gates whilst the latter green. A useless bit of information.

On the lanes Blackthorn was in flower before its leaves appeared, the reverse of the Hawthorn, May Blossom. The phrase “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out” was particularly pertinent today in the cold wind.  Better information.

Blackthorn.

Sheep were with lambs and the cattle were being let out into the fields. I came across a particularly threatening breed of sheep.

Pit Bull sheep.

Since I was last this way a memorial seat has been erected – “he loved this farm” a lovely sentiment.

Passing three popular hostelries …

Ferraris Country Hotel.

Derby Arms.

The Alston.

… shunning them all I arrived home in under a couple of hours. The weather shows no sign of improving but at least I’ve had some exercise.

 

LONGRIDGE FELL – YET AGAIN.

I had no sooner booked a trip to the Canary Islands, to get away from our dismal weather, when the temperature here shot up and the sun was shining. Will it last? Better get out, make the most of it and do a bit of training. Now when I say training I mean go for a short walk. I chose Longridge Fell again as I was hoping for clear views, but which way up?  It is so easy to park up near Cardwell House but I decided to reverse my usual routes for variety. This turned out to be quite different and not entirely successful, for some reason my anti clockwise circuit was strangely unbalanced. I couldn’t really say why – the wrong views, the wrong gradients, the wrong approach.

So what was new today, apart from the sunny weather?  There has been a lot of timber extraction on the fell in the last few years, partly due to the Ramorum fungus and also with maturity. Interestingly I’ve spent a few days recently cutting down a Blue Spruce in my garden. It suddenly lost all its needles a couple of years ago and has not recovered. Spruces are susceptible to the disease and I wonder whether I brought it back from the fell on my boots. The tracks on the fell have been improved to take the heavy machines and lorries involved. They only need to quarry superficially into the fellside to obtain  hardcore for the tracks. I had just passed one of these quarries when I came across a lorry and trailer being loaded with cut timber. It looked a slick operation.

Distant Pendle Hill.

Ready made hardcore quarry.

Smaller tracks took me to the top and the views were clearer than the other day, the Yorkshire Three Peaks were prominent and across Chipping Vale the Bowland Fells distinct. On my way down the ‘balcony’ path I started to meet people coming up from the now busy carpark.

A good 5.5 miles. I was home for lunch.

 

A BLEASDALE BLAST.

Bleasdale.

Bleasdale.

The forecast was dire – strong easterlies and minimal temperatures.

Enjoying a Sunday lie in listening to the radio I was disturbed by a phone call at about 10am from Mike wondering if I fancied a walk in the prevailing conditions. He had cancelled sailing in Yorkshire [even worse weather – not suitable for rigging up]. Glad of the prompt I suggested a couple of venues and arranged to pick him up at 11am. Quick breakfast.

We plumped for Bleasdale – lowish lying and good tracks. I’ve done this walk many times in all seasons – ie.  But something new always crops up.

The wind was blowing at 30mph when we left the car but we were sheltered by that magnificent beech hedge along the road. Turning right into the estate road at the desirable small lodge views opened up of the Bleasdale circle of fells. We walked through the estate houses and workshops and headed straight into the wind. As you go into a shelter band of trees there is a tall arched bridge across a small stream, I’ve never taken much notice of this before but today clambered down the bank for a better view. On the parapet downstream is a crest with the stonemasons tools highlighted but no date or name. On the open stretch of track the wind was fierce blowing sleet into our faces, we didn’t hang about. The hills disappeared into cloud and we were glad we weren’t up there. We were passed by a girl on an electric mountain bike with the widest tyres I’ve seen on a cycle. Battered by the wind we passed the track to Bleasdale Circle.

Mystic Bleasdale circle.

Mystic Bleasdale circle.

On to the isolated church and school. The wind turbine was hurtling round and no doubt providing electricity to the grid via the community centre. Things have changed here since my last visit – the well insulated parish hall has connected to the turbine and also installed an ecological  wood pellet burning boiler. Quite a step forward for this small community.

All is not necessarily rural idyll in this area –

After 4.5 miles we were glad to be back at the car and home for soup and rugby on TV.

 

BEACON FELL CIRCUIT.

It was one of those out of body experiences – I was 11years and cycling as fast as I could around the Teesdale lanes getting strong for some time trialing; then I was in my teens touring various parts of Britain with my mates; now I’m 30 and exploring the Trough of Bowland and further afield doing 100 mile days; next I’m 50 and cycling across Europe on endless adventures. Now I’m off my bike and having to walk up a steepish hill onto Beacon Fell. Bugger.

Today’s circuit from home is about the same distance as the Preston Guild Wheel which I’ve been using recently but with HILLS – over a 1000ft of ascent. Your are on your own here.Still the roads are quiet, the sun is shining and I’m wrapped up against the freezing temperatures.

Beacon Fell is a local landmark and popular with strollers and families. It is one of my regular haunts usually walking as previous posts detail. I had forgotten how impregnable it was on a bike. Still the cafe is open all year. Despite the icy roads it was mainly fast downhill from here on the long way round to Chipping under the Fairsnape Fells. There were a few more hills I’d forgotten about!

and then I’m sprinting to the finish on the Champs-Élysées.

***

As an aside I passed several laneside garages long since abandoned, they were a feature of the countryside 50 years ago. They were never open when you needed petrol  on a Sunday afternoon but their skilled mechanics kept the locals cars and tractors on the road. No plug in diagnostics in those days.