Category Archives: Bowland Fells.

THE WAY OF THE CROW. Fourth day, Lentworth to Postern Gate, Quernmore.

                                                               Clougha Pike.

Serendipity – whilst we were looking for ways into the extensive private Quernmore Hall estate blocking our ongoing straight line a car drew up and out stepped the daughter of the owners! A pleasant chat ensured and we had their contact phone number for possible further progress on another day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today should be easy walking , paths and lanes keep close to our ‘line’. Last night I’d been kept awake by heavy rainfall, frequent showers and gales were forecast but we set off and enjoyed sunshine and a bracing breeze. A quiet lane climbed away from the Wyre valley giving us a gentle warmup. Opposite the Quaker Friends Meeting House a carved stone was placed close to the stile we needed, we conjectured as to its antiquity. Once across a couple of swampy agricultural fields,  we approached a ramshackle farmyard, Low Moorhead, with trepidation, dogs and obstructions looked imminent. Another carved stone took our attention. As it happened the friendly farmer was busy nearby and we ascertained that he and his wife had created the stones rather than some medieval mason, we congratulated him on their artistry.

Most of the day we traversed Daleslike farmland below Grit Fell and Clougha Pike, gritstone moors above with Morecombe Bay spread out below. Our incursion onto the rough fell, boggy reeds, was not succesful and we were glad to hit the road and subsequently return into pheasant woods. The ‘beast from the east’ had been active here and we picked our way through the fallen trees.

Our incursion onto the rough fell, boggy reeds, was not succesful and we were glad to hit the road and subsequently return into pheasant woods. The ‘beast from the east’ had been active here and we picked our way through the fallen trees.

The last mile or so was along a supposedly quiet lane leading to those private woods above Postern Gate, the only highlight apart from a rainbow above the green valley was Quernmore Church.

*****

 

THE WAY OF THE CROW. Third day, Arbour to Lentworth Hall.

Distant Ward’s Stone Fell.

First a moan…                                                                                                                                             The Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 ( the CROW Act, not the crow we are following )  gives a public right of access to land mapped as ‘open country’  known as open access land. A large area of the Bowland Fells are so designated which should give some degree of freedom to roam on the moorlands. However not all is as it seems. The 1:25,000 OS maps highlight open access land with  orange shading but the areas do not always link up with the public rights of way, creating a problem of reaching the access area in the first place. There are actually some ‘islands’ of access land with no access! This morning we are faced with one of these dilemmas, the lane back to Arbour is private for the first kilometre [red dots] so the logical way into the access area is denied legally. Who came up with these walker unfriendly ideas? I’m afraid those powerful landowners had too much influence when the plans were being drawn .Anyhow here we are back at the Arbour shooting lodge in its remote setting, ready for another ‘up and over’. Today we have to climb over Stake House and Grizedale Fells. There is still no sign of the rhino. We take the opportunity of some shelter by the lodge to divest of some clothing before the sweaty climb. A vague track is lost and then found as we puff up the steep slope alongside a series of very posh shooting butts. This track in fact takes us to the unmarked summit of Stake House, 402m, where we can admire views of Morecambe Bay, the Clougha Pike, Grit Fell, Ward’s Stone and Wolfhole Fell group with  the Trough Of Bowland spread out below. We take a compass bearing to a pond which should be near the start of the track at Grizesdale Head. We are in the middle of a wilderness here though the going is better than we’d anticipated, short heather and not too much bog. The weather is changeable!

A hazy Morecambe Bay with another storm coming in.

 

Wilderness – on a compass bearing.

 

Out of nowhere a gate in the boundary fence appears and this gives us easy access to the landrover track we are relying on to take us off the moors. We do so in swoops down the hillside as the weather takes a turn for the worse, wind and hail. At the road we are glad to hide behind a wall for lunch and watch the lazy antics of some contractors trying to offload fence posts. I do not envy their work outside in these conditions.

Opposite is a private lane to Catshaw Farms which is right on our route line, we wave enthusiastically at farm workers who pass us but nobody seems bothered by our presence. Once at the large farm complex we are back on public rights of way. Catshaw Hall Farm dates from the 17C, grade II listed with mullioned windows. There was work going on today.Muddy fields drop down towards the River Wyre where many trees are down from recent storms.   At a side stream the path has been washed away leading to some undignified bum sliding to reach the newly reconstructed footbridge. The bridge over The Wyre is made of sturdier timbers.  I realise have been here before.

Steep slippy steps bring us into fields belonging to Lentwoth Hall, now divided into apartments.

The final lane with ‘walking’ trees.

This whole area of Abbeystead is part of the Grosvenor estate owned by the Dukes Of Westminster. It holds the record for the biggest grouse bag in a day. On 12 August 1915, 2,929 birds were shot by eight shooters. We have survived the day through their estate and will carry on no doubt to trespass further estates on our straight line. I’m glad we finished when we did as the weather became atrocious, it’s the first day of winter tomorrow.

*****

 

 

THE WAY OF THE CROW. Second day, Bleasdale to Arbour, Calder Valley.

JD seemed worried when I described the next leg of our straight line way – “it is extremely rough going, the game keepers are unfriendly and there are rumours of a wild rhinoceros”. Despite all that he agreed to join us on his recommended shortened version. The picture above was taken from his house when I picked him up in the morning, The Bleasdale Fells which we had to cross are to the left of the higher Fairsnape group. Beacon Fell is far left.

The car park at Bleasdale Church was busy with Sunday worshippers.

It was a glorious sunny morning as we used field paths into the heart of Bleasdale discussing our individual Saturday night’s exploits, I probably had the largest hangover, Sir Hugh had been consructing a cat flap and JD entertaing his family.

Donning extra layers when we realised how cold it was.

No that’s not the rhino but pretty scary anyhow.

After the isolated Hazelhurst Farm we found the beginnings of a land rover track that would, via a series of zigzags, take us steeply into the open access area and onto the fell top. We puffed our way up with frequent stops to admire the views over the nearby Fairsnape/Parlick fells with Bleasdale and  the Fylde below. Surprisingly and fortunately another quad track led to the remote trig point, 429m, of Hazelhutst Fell. We are on grouse shooting moors up here and much has been written about the persecution of other wildlife in this vicinity to try to promote the shooting fraternity. Whatever one’s opinions about grouse shooting I am strongly against the wilful and unlawful killing of our protected species. On this stretch of the walk we came across several loaded Fenn Traps which are legally only allowed for stoat trapping [killing] but are known to trap other species. These are lethal looking spring-loaded traps which could almost take the tip off your walking pole.

From the trig point there were hazy views across Morecambe Bay to Black Combe and Barrow. Taking a compass bearing we set off across the heather in a NNW direction and fortunately found another quad bike track taking us down past shooting butts so avoiding all the heavy going. After what I’ve said about the grouse shooting land owners we were thankful for their tracks. The final descent was vertiginous. The surroundings were reminiscent of a Scottish Glen and we found the bridge over the Calder to the Victorian shooting cabin of Arbour. This must be one of the best kept secrets of Lancashire.

We found a sheltered spot out of the cold east wind for lunch. There were no windows into the shooting lodge to see the rhinoceros head. The story goes that a rhino escaped from a train near Garstang and had to be shot, it’s trophy head being mounted in the lodge.

By now all the excitement was over and we had an easy walk out on the track alongside the River Calder.  We were back at Sir Hugh’s car much sooner than we’d planned because of those good moorland tracks. We will have to walk back in next time to rejoin our line.

*****

 

THE WAY OF THE CROW. First day, Longridge to Bleasdale.

I was apprehensive, walking in a straight line as possible would take us on unfrequented paths, would the way be feasible. We left the village down overgrown Gypsy Lane and shortly after found a gate secured by a cord, a veritable Gordian Knot. Out came Sir Hugh’s, I’ll blame him, Swiss Army Knife and we were through.

‘Gypsy Lane’

We passed the ponds, ‘figure of eight’ where my children used to go fishing without much success but I’m sure they had an adventure away from parental supervision – they never drowned so I must have been doing something right.

The next farm-yard, where I’d previously climbed walls to escape, was now well signed and we even had a resident directing us to the hidden stile ahead though the accompanying foot plank, couldn’t call it a bridge, didn’t inspire confidence.

The slippery plank.

We reached a farm gate on a public footpath which was securely padlocked, no Swiss Army knife could cope, but as if on cue a lady drove up in her battered pick-up and opened up for us. Remonstrating about obstructed footpaths didn’t seem to be appropriate. All was pleasant rural scenery with scattered farms, some in better condition than others.

The next problem was of our creation, contentedly walking along the tiny River Loud we were almost in someone’s back garden when we realised we’d missed our path but fortunately a gate allowed our escape onto the road.

The infant Loud.

Things improved as we headed closer towards the Bowland Hills and Bleasdale. We passed the small rural Bleasdale School and headed for the church where our car was parked. We were last here in gale force Ali. A group of fell runners were just setting off for a quick few miles and we exchanged pleasantries. Walkers, climbers , cyclists, runners tend to have a common background.

Is that an Ofsted verdict?

We had completed the first leg of our project with very little deviation from the straight and narrow and to be honest no serious obstacles except a lot of slippery stiles. Our way ahead over Hazelhurst Fell could be seen, the fell runner is pointing the way, but will there be any paths?

Yet another slippery stile.

***** 

THE WAY OF THE CROW. LONGRIDGE TO ARNSIDE.

My good friend Sir Hugh  [http://conradwalks.blogspot.com/ ] inhabits that lovely village Arnside whereas I have to put up with the gross overdevelopment of Longridge. For the last few winters we have had projects to keep us active in the shorter days. He has emailed once or twice with suggestions for this year but nothing has struck me as original, boringly I seem to have walked most of the Long Distance Paths in the NW. I came up with a counter suggestion – why don’t we draw a straight line between our houses and follow it as closely as possible. I know this idea has been used before, particularly successfully  by Nic Crane on his straight line Two Degrees West journey from Berwick-on-Tweed to The Isle of Purbeck. I seem to remember he gave himself  a kilometre leeway either side but had a lot of media support, I wonder if we could be even stricter. True to form Sir High has taken the bait and the line has been drawn.

It is the wrong time of year for backpacking so we will split the route into day walks. The distance as the crow flies is 26.5 miles but we will be lucky to keep it under 35 miles. No rules except keeping as close to the line as possible preferably on footpaths or quiet lanes, legal ground or not. There are some obvious obstacles in the way – the fells of Bleasdale, the Rivers Wyre and Lune, Quernmore Hall Estate and the M6. It will be a challenge overcoming them, lets get started.

THREE AGAINST ALI – AROUND BLEASDALE.

Most of the photos taken on my phone today are blurred. I was struggling to stand up in a 40-50mph gale, trying to keep my hood on as well as pointing the phone in the general direction of companions Sir Hugh and JD who couldn’t stand up either. After what I said in my last post about choosing the fine days to venture out, especially in the hills, today’s choice was obviously dubious in view of the forecast above. However unsteady my companions appear they have a resolution and resistance to be celebrated, we marched into the eye of the storm named Ali without a flicker of doubt.

Up and over the prominent steep Parlick along the ridge to the highest point of Fairsnape. So far so good, breezy but clear views. A newly flagged path soon disappears as we head into the peat bogs and evasive action is often taken to avoid the worst mires on the ridge. At the lowest point a vague path disappears down Fiendsdale towards Langden Castle, I think we’ll leave that adventure to another day. Our route westwards was again extravagantly flagged for some distance down the rake towards the bowl of Bleasdale. You could see the rain coming in on the storm and it hit us hard for the next hour, the wind was excessive straight at us and the rain in the air stinging on the face. Winter conditions within minutes and a good test for the waterproofs. It seemed a long way down. The usual erudite conversation from my companions was missing as we disappeared into our own worlds of survival. Salvation arrived in the valley as the worst of the rain passed, we could cope with the wind. We had more difficulty coping with some of the precarious stiles en route, Sir Hugh has two artificial knees and wasn’t happy with the contortions necessary to overcome them. Some situations when he was mid stride but hooked up to barbed wire became a mixture of uncontrollable laughter and panic as to his survival. We made it to Bleasdale church where a sheltered bench was gratefully used for sandwiches.

Vague paths across the bowl of Bleasdale led us to Blindhurst Farm through the usual stinking slurry and an outstanding farmhouse amongst the trash.

Despite our misguided attempts to reclimb Parlick we found some traversing sheep ‘tracks’ back to the car. The wind increased in intensity for our finale just to prove a point.

Not unsurprisingly we were the only car parked up.

Remind me next time to forge ahead and take some pictures from the front!

A day not to be missed.

*****

The map below is doubly important today, not only to show you the reader our whereabouts but also to give Sir Hugh an idea of where he had been.

MY DAILY WALK, [well almost daily].

The weather has not been good since my return from France, I feel Autumn is upon us.

It’s noticeable how often I comment on the state of the weather at the start of a post. Is that a British trait, am I obsessed with the climate or does it just reflect the close connection of conditions with my pastimes?  I remember when I was younger and outdoor time at a weekend was precious we would sally forth on walks or climbs whatever the weather. That would result in a fair share of days with no views and a good soaking on the hill or gripping climbs on cold slippery wet rock. Many of those occasions are vivid in my memory, proof of the importance to me of outdoor adventures and the companionships they bring. Character building was a phrase used. Now I take more heed of the forecast and try to choose the better days for my enjoyment or more likely head abroad to avoid the worst of our winter weather.

I’ve rambled off the subject.  I intend, now I’m free of the PMR stiffness, to  do a regular local walk most days to build up my fitness once again. How often have I said that? I have a 4mile circuit on my doorstep that suffices. Not only does one get some healthy exercise but also some physic benefits thrown in.  There are countless literary quotations extolling the virtues of walking, one of the simplest  –  “I have two doctors: my left leg and my right leg.”  G M Trevelyan.

I complain a lot, and will continue to do so, about the housing developments in Longridge destroying the character of the town but I’m still able to do the walk above from the house into the country. Why drive anywhere in mixed weather when a walk can be accomplished from home.   A stroll down the road takes me past the cricket ground where today there was a match which I can stand and watch for a few overs. There’s something special about village cricket which makes it almost hypnotic to engage in, I think it is something to do with the enthusiasm of the players and the gentle clapping of the handful of spectators. Long may it be so. The lane I usually take up onto the fell gives a lovely view back across Chipping Vale to the Bowland Hills. The view is different with the seasons but gives a sense of space and nature within half a mile of leaving home. Today this was heightened by a pair of Buzzards wheeling and mewing above me. Time just goes by whilst you stand and watch. A glance over the reservoir at any other bird life – usually ducks and grebe. And a glance into Craig Y Longridge to see if anyone I know is climbing, not today with the damp conditions. My return down the town’s main street is more mundane but gives the opportunity for social engagement and grocery shopping.

A perfect little circuit, I’m off to do it again today when things will be different.

*****