The gardening can wait. It’s hot and stuffy and my hay fever is irritating. Time to escape to higher ground not to far away. A quick lunch and I’m parked on Jeffrey Hill. It’s not rained for days and the ground is looking parched. What is usually a boggy path is now bone dry and trainers are all I need. There is a welcome breeze, and I’m soon ‘walking on sunshine’ with the familiar panoramic Bowland Fells stretching out above the vale of Chipping. Newly cut meadows adding to the patchwork. Yorkshire’s three peaks are in the far haze.
All very idyllic you will think, but I also choose to do a litter pick at the same time. I thought there was less rubbish than usual on the path to start with, but by the time I’d completed my 3-mile circuit my sac was full. Dog poo bags, tissues, empty water bottles, cans and strangely a pair of underpants. I declare the fell litter free – but for how long?
As an afterthought on the way home I called into our local bouldering Craig Y Longridge to check out any litter there. I’m pleased to say there were only a couple of bottles to remove and these had probably been thrown from the road above. Well done climbers for looking after their own environment. By now the crag was in the shade and I enjoyed a bit of exercise on some of the easier problems.
Mark Sutcliffe’s Chapter 4. Bowland Knotts and Cross of Greet.
Driving the lanes to Slaidburn once more and this time taking the continuation towards the Tatham Fells to park at the Cross of Greet Bridge, deep in Bowland. The last time I started a walk from here along the River Hodder, November 2020, the whole area was waterlogged and virtually impassable. I am hoping for better conditions today after a few dry days. It’s a Bank Holiday weekend, yet I’m the only car parked up by the river.
I skip across the marshy area and have no problem fording the stream this time. The walk-up to the isolated barn goes well. A barn owl is disturbed as I peep inside, it flies off, and the chicks go quiet. I don’t hang about. Outside was a rusting lime spreader manufactured locally in Clitheroe ? Vintage 1960.
The infant Hodder.
Kearsden Brook ford.
The Hodder gathering pace.
Abode of owls.
Atkinson Spreader, Clitheroe.
The way onto Pike Side is rather vague, and I end up following sheep tracks and even sheep. I realise that somewhere I have gone wrong arriving at an old lime kiln next to the wall, SD 725591. There are shake holes marked on the map, so there must be underlying limestone near about. With a bit of rough ground I regain the route by the gate, SD 723593. There are the ruins of an old barn here, and I follow the straight access track all the way to the road at Bowland Knotts, although at times it disappears underwater.
Limekiln SD 725591.
Gateway. SD 723593.
To the road at Bowland Knotts.
There are craggy outcrops either side of the road and some are suitable for bouldering. I find a seat not far off the road for lunch with Ingleborough in full view.
Roadside bouldering in Yorkshire.
Roadside bouldering in Lancashire.
Peggy and John Phillips seat.
Tracks follow the wall westwards towards a trig point, 430 m,the highest point of the Bowland Knotts also recorded as Crutchenber Fell, a ladder stile crosses to it. This is a rough tramp, but there are good, if hazy, vistas into Yorkshire, Stocks Reservoir, Pendle and the Bowland Hills.
Crossing to Crutchenber Fell.
Trig 430 m.
I stay on the south side of the wall for the undulating mile to the next feature, Cold Stone Crag. There is a path of sorts. There is climbing on this remote crag, but I doubt if many come this far, you might as well boulder back at the road. On one occasion I made the boggy walk in to photograph the crag for a new guidebook, only to arrive after the sun had moved round. The process was repeated the next day at an earlier hour. From up here the whole of the Pendleside panorama is visible.
Forever onwards alongside the wall and a gentle climb up to a height of 486 m, no cairn denotes the ‘summit’. The miles are long up here. An undecipherable boundary stone is encountered. The maps vary on the name of the hill – Great Harlow, Hailshowers Fell, Raven Castle or perhaps Catlow Fell.
Catlow or Hailshowers Fell.
Boundary Stone – Lancs/Yorks.
Ravens Castle stones?
A little farther and a fence line leads me down to the road at the Cross of Greet. By the cattle grid is a large stone with a shallow square hole in the top. It stands at the Lune/Ribble watershed. formally the Lancs/Yorks border and may have had in the past a stone cross inserted into it. Or was it a plague stone? nobody knows. I think it’s more likely to have been a cross at an important passage through these remote hills.
I chat to some cyclists riding the classic round from Slaidburn. Up to the Cross of Greet, over Tatham Fell past the Great Stone, maybe a brew at Bentham or Clapham and then back over Bowland Knotts, through Gisburn Forest to Slaidburn. I did it once with my mate Tone, never to be forgotten.
“Down the road for 800 m then follow one of the faint paths down to the stream” Well I’m not sure about the 800 m, and I don’t find any obvious paths. It will be even worse once the all encompassing bracken has grown. But I do find myself down at the Hodder, not the magnificent river it will later become, and hop over to the other side.
A slight climb and I am on the brink of an abandoned quarry. Stone from here was transported by rail to build the dam of Stocks Reservoir as the valley was slowly flooded in the 1930s for the Fylde Waterboard. Only the church was saved, stone by stone and rebuilt on higher ground. There is lots of archive material online. The quarry is atmospheric particularly with the surviving, but rusting dinosaur of a steam crane.
At the edge of the quarry is the base of the Far Costy Clough, a worthwhile scramble up onto White Fell I’m lead to believe. Yet another one to add to my list. Another day.
I’m content to just to follow the old rails out of the quarry back to the Cross of Greet Bridge. Another longish day out in Bowland.
After last week’s heroics in the high Bowland Fells today was a gentle rural walk. My son suggested a walk for his day off. Where? I asked. “What about Brock Bottoms, I’ve not been there for years” I’m writing it up as a 4-mile walk some of you may want to follow, a perfect evening stroll.
We used to take the boys along the Brock getting on for 50 years ago, so I’m pleased he still has it in his mind set. (I must have done something right in their upbringing) I remember paddling down the stream to the remains of the mill in the valley all those years ago, not for us the riverside path. I have written before on the history of the mill – Brock Mill was once a thriving water-driven cotton spinning mill with up to twenty cottages in the valley for the workers. The mill was probably built in the 1790s. After a chequered history and two reincarnations as a roller making factory, and then a file making factory the mill finally closed in the 1930s. For some time the ground floor of the mill operated as a café, whilst the top floor was used for dancing on Saturday nights!
What will we find today?
Along with my son Chris I’ve enlisted Mike for a short walk with promises of a curry afterwards. Surprisingly the picnic car park at Higher Brock Bridge itself is quiet. What a contrast from those Covid days when every space was taken by cars isolating from each other.
A few dog walkers are around but within 200 m of the car park we meet no one else. The water level is very low reflecting the recent dry spell. I seem to think the path has been ‘improved’ over the years. Lots of wild garlic, fading bluebells, stitchwort, red campions, hawthorn and other Spring blossoms deserve our attention. The valley is very steep sided along here.
We leave the main path to explore the ruins of Brock Mill. Until now, we have been walking along the line of the mill race or Leat. There is little left to see. Where were the associated cottages? Where was the main wheel? All is jungle with Himalayan Balsam taking over.
Rather than go back to the main path we struggle on a riverside trail, not recommended. Once out into the open meadows the going is easier and we soon reach the elegant Walmsley Bridge. For some reason the road is blocked and yet everything looks OK with the bridge. It was only when we walked up the lane did we find a landslide that had taken half the road down into the Brock. Could be a while before this lane is reopened, fortunately no premises have been cut off.
At the corner we take a farm lane I’ve never used before. The farm turns out to be massive agricultural sheds in the modern manner. A traditional cockerel guards the approach, but the path goes around the edge of the buildings with little fuss, no doubt an unofficial diversion but no problem. The farm house itself is named Throstle Nest with one of its barns converted to luxury living. The access lane soon has back on the minor road.
A bridleway could have taken us back down to Brock Bottom, but we stay on the quiet road for half a mile, passing some delightful Lancashire farmhouses. Another footpath I haven’t used before takes us straight through fields below Beacon Fell onto the lane which drops us back down to the picnic spot where we are the only car remaining.
A very pleasant 4 mile round through the Lancashire countryside.
The hastily put together curry supper was a success as well.
I’m running out of titles for my series of walks in Bowland as set out by Mark Sutcliffe in his Walking In Lancashire book. He has certainly covered the area well. Highest, Best of, Heart of, and today Remote or even the Remotest… How many of you have been to Wolfhole Crag or Whitendale Hanging Crags? This is a long post I’m afraid – it was a long day.
I enjoy the familiar drive into the hills with the roof down. Along the Hodder Valley; farmers busy silage cutting in the fields; over the Roman road with views to Ingleborough; down to picturesque Newton; along to stately Slaidburn and up Woodhouse Lane to my parking place just before the fell gate. I say my parking place as it was a regular spot when we were developing the bouldering potential of Croasdale’s Bullstones all those years ago. Not many drive up this far, but Mark mentions the single space, there is a little more back down the lane.
Newton on the Hodder.
The hike up the rough Hornby Road, a Roman Road again, (aka Salter Fell Track) has been done dozens of times and I pass familiar landmarks. The war memorial to airmen lost on these fells; the ancient sheep folds and bothy down in Croasdale where I have stayed with my grandson; the culvert where one can still see the Roman workmanship; the large quarry where the peregrines nest; the bridge where the road has been saved from sliding into the valley; the Tercet stone demarking the Lancashire Witches fateful route to the assizes in Lancaster; over to the right the bouldering playground of Bullstones and later the vague track dropping into upper wild Whitendale.
Along here somewhere I meet two RSPB workers checking on nesting Hen Harriers. It is good the birds have returned and let’s hope more survive the persecution by the shooting fraternity this year. No photos and as they say on the news “their anonymity and location have been protected” The road goes on over the watershed.
After four miles I leave the road for another four miles of mostly trackless and waterlogged ground. Mark says “the next stretch is very boggy and needs careful negotiation” Go no farther if you are unsure or if the weather is bad. This is remote country with no easy escape routes. My walking poles disappear into the mire quickly followed by my boots. Jack be nimble. It is not so bad – I survived. There is beauty there if you look closely.
If I close my eyes I could be at the seaside, the sound of gulls is everywhere. I think they are Herring Gulls, a large colony exists up here. I try for a video, more for the sounds than the fleeting fly overs. They are becoming more aggressive, dive-bombing me. I look down and there below my feet is a scrape of a nest with three eggs. Better move on taking extra care where I place my feet.
It doesn’t take much to persuade me to take the ‘optional’ diversion to Wolfhole Crag half a mile away. One wouldn’t come this far in good weather and not go to the highest point. There is a trig point, 527 m, and also an interesting collection of gritstone boulders. I can’t resist a few simple boulder problems, keep them simple as you don’t want to break an ankle up here. The longer routes look fearsome. Somewhere there is a shallow cave in the rocks – the original wolf hole.
A good place to eat my sandwich, wish that had been two as the day panned out. All around – The Lakes, Yorkshire Three Peaks and most of East Lancashire. Pendle is always visible. All a little hazy in today’s heat.
Walking back down the fence line, no navigation needed, is not easy because of more bogs. Maybe it is better on the other side, No it isn’t I tried. White Crag is nothing but a few boulders. Whitendale Hanging Stones are not much bigger. But according to “the gravitational method to establish Britain’s centre of gravity OS calculated that the geographical centre of the British Isles, including Islands, lies at SD 6419 5654“ virtually where I’m stood. I’m too weary to take it in. In fact as I drop down very steeply I’m just too pleased to see the small tarn on the col between Brennand and Whitendale. The walls and fences aren’t too easy to negotiate. I lose even more height as I descend to the Duchy farm at Whitendale where my route ahead climbs back up zigzags for 800ft onto Dunsop Fell.
Whitendale Hanging Stones, centre of Britain.
My way down.
Small mammal traps remind me I’m on shooting lands, the hunting class have some barbaric practices.
I collapse onto a wall at the farm, nobody is about, I’m even wondering if I should phone my son for a cop-out evacuation, but a drink and a banana fortify me for the final stage. Thankfully once back on a stony trail my steps become stronger, and I push on up. The trail disappears into peat, but there are some posts and cairns to guide me to Dunsop Head, a vague col with a wall, gate and another of those crafted signs. Looking at the map and the terrain I realise I’ve never been on Baston Fell to the north, today is not the time to visit. Let’s just get down.
My way back up.
Looking back down to Whitendale with Hanging Stones above somewhere.
Go east across more bog. By the time Stocks Reservoir comes into view you are almost home and dry, although your feet are probably wet by now. Eventually the bridleway becomes more visible as a sunken way and the airmen’s memorial appears. There is my car down the lane with Pendle still watching over us. Seven hours of remote walking, one to talk about in the pub later.
It was alarming that my car radio suddenly switched from Radio Lancashire to BBC Cymru as I turned off the A6 towards Dolphinhome in deepest Lancashire. Had I taken the wrong turning somewhere down the road? it turns out their frequencies are very similar, still a bit strange. I was on route to the heart of Bowland not Bangor. Tarnbrook’s few houses lie at the end of the road alongside the northern branch of the River Wyre. They are part of the Duke of Westmorland’s vast Abbeystead estate. I’ve covered this area many times before, most recently here in my Cicerone series. Parking along this narrow lane has always been an issue and the estate are discouraging us going past a suitable lay-by at the entry to the valley. I go along with this even though I know of a large grassy verge higher up the lane. These parkings are both mentioned in Mark Sutcliffe’s walk number 10 onto Ward’s Stone in the Cicerone Lancashire Walks guide book, my objective for today. It looked far off on the horizon.
What a day, clear blue skies and sunshine. Rare enough in these northern hills. But there is a cool easterly wind blowing even down here as I start my walk along the lane to Tarnbrook. I add a few extra warm garments to my rucksack. The quiet lane runs alongside the Tarnbrook Branch of the River Wyre and its joyful passage keeps my attention on the mile or so morning walk up the valley, and of course the lambs. I pass Ouzel Bridge leading to a farm. The Ring Ouzel, or mountain Blackbird, is found in the tree lined cloughs in the Forest of Bowland. Will I see any today, I have previously?
Once into the hamlet I take the concessionary path straight up the fell into open access land, roughly following Tarnsyke Clough. Unfortunately not a Ring Ouzel in sight but there are plenty of lapwings and curlews flying around. This is essentially a Land Rover track to take shooters up to the butts on the fell. In the past, before the CRoW act, it was jealously guarded by the keeper living in the hamlet. Us climbers wanting to go up to the forbidden Thorn Crag, seen up on the right, often resorted to devious tactics, walking up a longer, but permitted, way to the plateau and then dropping down to the crag. We came unstuck one day when my climbing partner uncoiled his new rope, a fluorescent yellow. We could be seen from Blackpool never mind from the keeper’s cottage in Tarnbrook. Session over we would walk boldly down the estate track knowing we would be rudely accosted but also knowing they would have to let us out at the hamlet, stalemate. Things changed with the implication of the access agreement, the same gamekeeper who had sworn at us the last year now wished us a good day. The worm turns. There are no confrontations today and I just plod on upwards at my steady pace. I can’t believe I used to carry a bouldering pad up here.
Thorn Crag and boulders.
Looking back down to Tarnbrook with Hawthornthwaite Fell behind.
I reach the ‘Luncheon Hut’, park your Range Rover here sir.
Onwards, I ignore the track off to the right and continue on to a division of tracks not specifically stated in the guide. It mentions contouring to the left, I somehow ignore this and follow the tempting main track upwards to its terminus, SD593578, and then pick up a fainter path linking a series of shooting butts rising up the fell. All very pleasant although the modern butts resemble WW1 fortifications. I am obviously wrong but take a compass bearing on the trig point and climb onwards. With relief the conspicuous weather station up here comes into view, I was then only a few hundred metres from the summit. It would all be far more difficult in mist. Probably would have been better to stick more closely to Mark’s directions.
End of the road.
Old pony track.
The Fylde plain and Morecambe Bay lie down below, all a little hazy, as I reach the trig point, 560 m. The Lakes and northern Pennines were imaginary. By now the wind was almost gale force making any movement awkward. Fortunately there is a gritstone boulder, the Ward’s Stone itself, nearby behind which I cowered and added more layers of clothing. I used my spare balaclava to keep my cap from blowing away. Even with two pairs of gloves my hands were frozen. I was the only person out on the fell which was probably good considering my appearance.
560 m trig with nearby Ward’s Stone.
Grit Fell to the west and Morecambe Bay.
Over to Caton wind farm with the Lakes hiding behind.
Ready for battle at Ward’s Stone.
Half a mile across the sea of peat was another trig point one metre higher, so at 561 m the highest in Bowland. Why there are two so close together I can find no reason. All is Bowland emptiness to the east, except for Ingleborough’s distinctive summit across the Craven Fault. The book says head for Ingleborough, but I found a vague path going to its right and meeting up with a fence line that comes from nowhere. It’s all too easy in clear weather like today.
Heading just right of Ingleborough.
The going was good to firm on what after rain can be a quagmire of peat. The fence gave way to a wall, which gave me a bit of shelter from the wind. Another fence lead me down the fell. The Three Peaks remained unclear but ahead the remote Wolfstones and White Hill were obvious. These latter two are rarely visited trig points in deepest Bowland. Having said that not a lot of people come this way, the path along Ward’s Stone ridge is not heavily used.
The wall with Distant Pendle. I was having difficulty holding the camera steady.
This part of the fell was being used as a seagull roost, and I was dive bombed a couple of times. Judging from the number of gulls this won’t bide well for vulnerable eggs and chicks of Lapwings or Curlews.
Suddenly I was onto one of his lordship’s roads coming over the hill from the north. This took me all the way down alongside the upper Tarnbrook Wyre in Gables Clough to the valley bottom. Farmers were busy with their sheep and lambs.
In the hamlet the estate houses were being done up for a new lease of life. I remember a few years ago talking to a lovely old gentleman outside his house. He had lived there all his life and was the last resident still there. it will be interesting to see how gentrified the place becomes with new residents moving in.
It seemed a long trudge back along the lane to my car. The extra road walking brings the mileage up to 10, more than the 7 1/4 stated in the guide. With hindsight, given the strength of the wind, it would have been an easier day in reverse.
This is what you may find on shooting estates. A snare cage trap on a log which is meant to kill predators such as the stoat or weasel. The problem is that other small mammals can easily enter and if the dimensions of the entrance are not correct so can larger animals. All very nasty to my mind. You wouldn’t want to put your hand in one! They make a resounding loud snap if touched with a ski pole.
I’ve been impressed so far with the walks from Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone guide to Walking in Lancashire. It’s a big county covering all types of terrain from the Coast to the Pennines, and he has chosen well. I must have walked most of his routes many times in the past, but he keeps throwing up little gems of variations new to me. Today was no exception. Nobody in their right mind would climb Pendle up those steps from the overrun village of Barley, I did in October 2020 as the lockdown restrictions for Covid were being relaxed. Never seen so much congestion on the roads or hill, but I was on a mission that day to find Fox’s Well. Mark takes us the quiet but long way up from the little village of Pendleton, a hamlet (tun) close to Pendle.
Pendle Hill dominates the landscape as you drive along the busy A69 though the Ribble Valley. It was along here I came today before branching off into the peace and quiet of Pendleton. I paid my dues and parked in the village hall’s car park as suggested in the guide, Walk 34 – ‘a challenging walk‘. I have been slowly increasing the mileage that my knee injury will cope with, it is nearly a year since the cycling accident that tore the medial ligament. Time is a slow but reliable healer, today’s rough 10 miles would be a test.
The sun is out as I walk past the Swan with Two Necks, I have visions of a pint outside on the return. Pendleton is unusual in that it has a stream running down its main street making it a favourite Ribble Valley venue. The pub regularly wins awards for its beer and food. Higher up the village the Fiddle Stone, once a clapper bridge across the stream now curiously spanning a patch of grass
Leaving aside thoughts of beer, I soon take a lane into fields which rise up to Wymondhouses, a Pennine farm once used as a chapel. The plaque above the door states that the first Congregational Church in north-east Lancashire was founded here in 1667, a Mr Thomas Jolly being the nonconformist preacher.
Rougher pastures and a sunken way led me onwards higher to come out onto the road at the Nick of Pendle, a low pass through these hills between the Ribble Valley and Sabden. A popular stopping off point for motorists seeking a picnic and a view. There were quite a few cars parked up this morning, the first people I had come across.
Back to Longridge Fell and Bowland.
Sabden down in the valley.
I was quickly back to peace and quiet on an obvious bridleway heading for Churn Clough and the Deerstones.
Bridleway with Deerstones on the horizon.
Below is the almost circular Churn Clough Reservoir, now used for fishing. Our path crosses the clough and then climbs steeply up its right bank heading for the Deerstones marked on the OS map. It is quite a pull-up. The day has changed, the sun has disappeared, and dark clouds fill the sky. The Deerstones look menacing in this light. At the back of my mind there is something of interest in the quarried stones, but I don’t divert without good reason. (I later read of the Devil’s Footprint. This feature was natural and caused by nodules of iron rich stone eroding out the harder gritstone bedrock. The legend is that the footprint was left by the Devil as he gathered stones in his apron to hurl at a nearby church. He then clumsily dropped them at nearby Apronfull Hill. I suspect that without prior knowledge the footprint would have been difficult to find.
The path comes out onto the open moor at a gate. Paths go in all directions. I just head north on the vaguest of paths to join the main route coming up from the Nick. Pendle is a big hill and I feel minute in this landscape, it wouldn’t take much to get lost in its vastness on these SW slopes. All is sky and skylarks. You can’t capture this with a photograph, especially now that it is so dull.
Could be anywhere.
The path becomes more defined on the lip of the prominent Ogden Clough, a highlight of the day so far.
I have distant memories of ploughing directly up that clough in a hard winter when all other tracks were obliterated. Today the going is good and as one approaches the summit the path has been ‘flagged’ to prevent erosion. There are still very few people using this way, but I fall into conversation with Max and his dog. He is full of tales of Lakeland walking, recently having completed the 214 Wainwright’s. He admits to being a little nervous on some of the Lakeland scrambles, I encourage him to take on Sharp Edge on Blencathra and maybe even Jack’s Rake on Pavey, I am not sure if he is convinced.
Wes, dog and flags.
By now we have reached the summit Trig point, at 557 m,and realise the place is thronged with people from the Barley side, what a contrast to our way up. Nonetheless, it is a good viewpoint over Pendleside and a sit down for a snack, but not for long as under the cloud it is decidedly chilly.