Category Archives: Chipping Vale

TOTRIDGE FELL, BOWLAND.

 Last night after a bouldering session at Craig y Longridge I drove up the fell and took in the familiar view over Chipping Vale to the Bowland Hills. In front of me were the Fairsnape, Wolf, Saddle, Burnslack and Totridge Fells. How many times have I photographed this scene?  I’ve not been on the easterly of these for several years so there and then I decided on a full traverse of the range today. For every 100 visitors to Fairsnape there is probably only one on Totridge.

I can’t explain why I sat in bed with a couple of coffees delaying my departure. Sloth had taken control and it was with a great deal of difficulty that I finally emerged and started the walk at 11am. By then I realised a full traverse and return of 13 miles or so was impractical and I opted for a shorter 9miles from Saddle End, missing out Fairsnape. The heat of the last few days was diminished by a westerly breeze. Old tracks rise up from Saddle End farm and soon the open moor is reached. A steady metronomic pace is tapped out by my walking poles as I gain ground. There is not a soul in sight.

Saddle End Farm and fell.

On the 26th March 1962 three siblings left home and travelled by bus to Chipping and
walked over the fells, maybe to Langden Castle, on their return over Saddle Fell they were caught in a blizzard which resulted in the two brothers losing their lives due to hypothermia. Their sister survived to raise the alarm at Saddle End Farm. There was no Mountain Rescue Team in the area at that time so police and locals searched with BAC loaning a helicopter to help. Shortly after this tragedy two Mountain Rescue teams were formed in the area, the forerunners of Bowland Pennine MRT.

I mention the above because it is thought the boys may have sheltered in a small stone hut. I remember early walks on Saddle Fell in the 70’s the hut being by the track I’m on today, its roof was almost intact. Now it is a pile of stones but with a tragic history which I recollect every time I pass.
Reaching the wild top of Saddle Fell ignoring the track to Fairsnape I turned east at the watershed to follow the fence towards Totridge seen a couple of miles away. This stretch of fell is usually one of the boggiest in the area, I’ve been pulled out of the depths on one occasion,  deciding which side of the fence is the least hazardous often means crossing repeatedly without any real advantage. Today however the peaty ground was bone dry and I could just enjoy the scenery without any risk of sinking, the wooden poles placed to give buoyancy in wet conditions totally unneeded. [By the way the best ‘path’ is on the left of the fence.]

The views are far stretching over the Bowland area and all the hills and valleys I’ve been walking recently are identifiable. The Yorkshire Three Peaks are in the hazy background. Difficult to capture on camera.

Up here in this bleak wilderness one plant brightened up the peat bogs – the yellow starry flowered Bog Asphodel.

All I had to do was follow the fence, there is one pond to navigate found and a short section above Whitmore where you leave the fence at a tangent and take off into the peat to regain a wall in a short distance before rising onto Totridge and a final open track to the trig point at 496m. The trig pillar is looking decidedly unstable as the peat below it erodes, it will topple before long.

From the top a small path, not marked on the map, heads NE to drop steeply off the fell towards Mellor Knoll. If the correct line is taken zigzags descend quite pleasantly, not so pleasant ascending.  Halfway down today I found a place to sit, eat my sandwiches and contemplate the views over the Dunsop and Hodder valleys. In the distance over Mellor Knoll was a glimpse of Stocks Reservoir I walked around last week and closer at hand, above the Hodder, the tree capped Birkett Fell again climbed recently.

Over Mellor Knoll to Stocks and Yorkshire.

Birkett Fell, Waddington Fell and distant Pendle.                                                       

I dropped down to the fell wall and joined the bridleway coming from Hareden which goes into woods of beech and chestnut where I met the first people of the day, three gents enjoying the area.

My way back was on a series of bridleways and paths linking remote farms in the limestone country below the fells. Higher Fence Wood, Dinkling Green and Lickhurst. From the latter the track went further back up into the fells than I remember and I speeded up a little as bad weather was coming in.

Lickhurst Farm.

I used to cycle these ways when my children were getting into mountain biking, I don’t remember these stepping stones by a ford below Burnslack.

I arrived back at the car just as the rain did, my dilatory start almost catching me out.

*****

 

A SUNDAY MORNING STROLL.

I can’t say much new about Longridge Fell.

Over coffee I was plotting a route from Brock Bottoms when the phone rang. it was Dave asking if I fancied a walk on Longridge Fell. I couldn’t say no. I’ll put the river walk on hold.

I’ve not seen much of Dave since my PMR episode put rock climbing on hold, and anyway he is abroad most of the time. A quick turn around and we met up at Cardwell House car park at 10am.  He was not familiar with this western end of the fell so I had hoped to give him a good tour. We caught up on our recent relevant excursions. He has just had a successful three week’s climbing trip to the south of France, I’ve mainly been at the doctors. As I waited at the car park I tried out the panoramic mode on my camera with the Bowland Fells over Chipping Vale.

He seemed to be enjoying the route I took trough the forest until we hit an area of tree felling across the track, the next 200m was tedious to say the least. He likened it to anti tank defence terrain from the 2nd WW.

We eventually emerged onto a familiar track up towards the summit but a blocked path forced us onto another rough section.

The views from the trigpoint were exceptional but we didn’t linger as we had already taken much longer than anticipated.

The way back to the car traversed the fell overlooking the Vale of Chipping again on a track he had never used.

It was good to catch up.

*****

The weather was so good that I decamped to Craig Y Longridge on the way home for a bit of bouldering and more catching up with friends who were there, it was busy.Just across the road on a small reservoir a pair of great crested grebes have set up home in reeds within sight of the road. The female is sitting on three eggs so far and the male fussing around extending the nest.

ZIG ZAGGING UP FAIRSNAPE.

The way to the zig zags.

From Bleasdale if the light is right one can see a zig zag track going up the southern slopes of Fairsnape. Today, Easter Sunday, the sun was strongly shining onto that slope and the way was not obvious but a look at the satellite map shows the track clearly from Higher Fairsnape Farm..Fairsnape is usually climbed from the outskirts of Chipping following tracks over Parlick but I have not used these zig zags and I thought today would be a good time to avoid the crowds. Sure enough when I reached Fell Foot the were already a dozen cars parked up, this is the spot where the paragliders start their trek up the hill. An insignificant footpath pointer on the corner led me into rough fields  where few go, but stiles some more substantial than others link up a pathless route which traverses round below Parlick to above Blindhurst farm.The sound of Lapwings and Curlews was everywhere, a hare popped up directly in front of me before disappearing into the distance. There seem to be an abundance of Orange Tip butterflies this year. There are new-born lambs and in the sky early paragliders. To my right is open access land [rough poor land that the landowners were happy to allow to be designated in the CRoW act] and it struck me that the colour of the land resembled the brown colouring on the 1:25,000 maps.

I dropped into a valley with a tributary of the River Brock and passed a green spot that would be ideal for a wild camp with my youngest grandchild if I could get him off his iPad. There was nobody about at Higher Fairsnape farm except new-born lambs. The buildings look old with mullioned windows and one wonders about the hardships of farming these remote places in the past and even now.

A signpost pointed the way on a concessionary path to reach the start of my zigzags. Once on the open fell I enjoyed a leisurely ascent up the well graded tracks, I always assume these tracks were for bringing peat down from the fells.

At one of the turns was the remains of a building, perhaps a shelter for the workers.

Years ago I can remember a similar structure with a disintegrating roof on the way up nearby Saddle Fell, it has now become a pile of stones but perhaps hides a sombre history.

On 26th March 1962 three siblings left home and travelled by bus to Chipping and walked over the fells, maybe to Langden Castle, on their return over Saddle Fell they were faced with severe winter conditions which result in the two brothers losing their lives due to hypothermia. Their sister Sheila survived to raise the alarm at Saddle End Farm. The brothers probably took shelter in the hut.  There was no Mountain Rescue Team in the area at that time so it was left to the police and locals to search, British Aircraft Corporation loaned their whirlwind helicopter to help. Shortly after this tragedy a South Ribble Rescue team was set up, now the local Bowland Pennine team.

  Above me were paragliders soaring the thermals and lots of people coming up the route from Parlick, I had seen nobody for two hours. My track came onto the plateau only a few hundred yards from the summit. Up here there is a cairn with Paddy’s Pole, a wind shelter and the trig point, 510m. I had a quick look around for a suitable bivi spot in the near future.

I was able to take a summit photo of a couple on their first ascent of Fairsnape and pointed out that the true summit, 520m, was half a mile away NE and that today conditions were perfect for visiting it as the peat hags that guard it have virtually dried up. I met up with them there later. the views were hazy – no Lakeland Hills or Three Peaks, Pendle and Longridge Fell were a blur.

520m summit.

A romp down the wallside and round Parlick. Looking back across Bleasdale towards Fairsnape showed no evidence of my zig zags. I walked below the popular spots for launching parapentes and many were still in the air. I passed a late starter walking up with his load.

The day was finished before lunch back at the road at Fell Foot.

*****

 

LONGRIDGE FELL WANDERINGS.

A rather gloomy Longridge Fell with Pendle in the background.

I rose Phoenixlike from the ashes for a stroll on Longridge Fell. I had not been out for a month due to some chest infection or other and I wheezed my way round today. The weather was not the promised spring sunshine, in fact I wished I had donned an extra layer to cope with the cold wind.

I chose an anticlockwise circuit for some reason but before long this was denied to me by forestry work on wind-blown trees that had closed some paths. Over the last few years there has been a lot of tree felling partly due to fungal diseases attacking the spruce, and the edges of the remaining trees are susceptible to strong winds. I lost a Blue Spruce in my own garden two years ago and wonder whether I brought the disease back from the fell.

The diversions led me into parts of the forest long forgotten and rarely visited.

My favourite tree on the fell.

Approaching problems.

No further.

Deep in the hidden parts.

On the way back I enjoyed a  long open section past the trig point with decent views into Chipping Vale and across to the Bowland Hills. I met the only people I’d seen all day flying an extremely fast model glider.

The Bowland view.

What’s eating this?

The modern non-edible variety.

It was windy.

You can see from my plotted map that I walked an erratic route with some backtracking but managed 7 miles which pleased me.

*****

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.