Category Archives: Climbing

BARDEN MOOR AND RYLSTONE, last of the summer wine.

A vigorous day visiting old haunts with wide-ranging views.

The Duke of Devonshire, Bolton Abbey Estate, owns a large area of grouse moorland NE of Skipton. Confusingly Barden Moor to the west of the Wharfe and Barden Fell to the east. I’ve spent many days on these moors mainly on their edges climbing on Rylstone Crag, Crookrise, Eastby and Simon’s Seat. I felt it was time to revisit and make a walk of it across the moors. The Pieman doesn’t get out much so when he phoned suggesting a walk this week I gladly agreed and decided on this walk on his local hills. I cajoled JD into the party to show him a new area. Wednesday was the day and the forecast was for improving weather, but first we had to get rid of the tail end of Hurricane Dorian. Early morning and the rain was still heavy, I even had a phone call from Skipton querying opting out but I’m made of sterner stuff. Miraculously as we drove across the skies cleared and the sun came out, there was a sneaky breeze when we met in Rylstone.

Rylstone with its duck pond and church; the famed ladies who produced the original nude Calendar;  the inspiration for Wordsworth’s 1808 poem ‘The White Doe of Rylstone’ and above the village Rylstone Cross.  The latter was visible on the fell as we set off but it would be several hours before we stood alongside it.  Originally a stone figure, the ‘Rylstone Man’,  changed to a wooden cross to commemorate the ‘Peace of Paris’ in 1814. This had to be replaced several times until the wooden structure was replaced by a stone one in 1997. I remember a wooden cross held by a metal frame from early trips to Rylstone Crag.

A bridleway climbs away from the road and was followed easily into the heart of the moor. We chatted away and hardly noticed the increasing tailwind. The heather, unfortunately, was past its best. Views started to open up to familiar hills but putting a name to them often eluded us. Simon’s Seat across Wharfedale was prominent. Upper Barden Reservoir came into sight and veered off on a track to it.  Sitting on an ancient stone gatepost out of the wind we had an early snack. Across the dam was an old waterboard house, we speculated on its value – isolation and views against accessibility.

The estate has signed most of the tracks and we changed course once again heading back to the moor’s northern edge.  Another small reservoir was passed and we focused on an old chimney up the slope, this with some obvious old pits suggested past mining activity.

As we reached the edge I regret not diverting a short distance to look at Numberstones End, a small gritstone crag.

By now the wind was almost gale force and difficult to walk into, JD’s hat became the focus of attention as it somehow stuck to his head. We took our second break in a beaters’ shelter, the shooters more commodious lodge being firmly closed. We gazed across upper Wharfedale to Grassington, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside, Grimworth Reservoir with Nidderdale behind. The Three Peaks were hidden in cloud.

Refreshed we commenced battle with the wind as we bypassed Rolling Gate Crags and made a beeline towards an obvious Obelix, Cracoe War Memorial erected to honour the dead from the Great War with a plaque added for the 2nd WW. It was difficult to stand up on the summit because of the wind and we set off down the ridge towards Rylstone Crag and its Cross. Now below was the limestone country around Cracoe and the contrasting greens of the Winterburn Valley.

A visit to the base of the main face of Rylstone Crag was obligatory to gaze up at President’s Slab, Dental Slab and all those other climbs that have given me so much pleasure in the past. Last climbed six years ago.

President’s Slab.

Dental Slab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cross was another gale swept vantage point now looking towards Pendle.

 

  A couple of boulders took our attention and we played around trying to stand up in the hole or reach for an edge, only long-limbed JD was successful with the latter. We reflected on ageing bodies and ‘the last of the Summer wine’ as we trotted down the hill back to the car, getting out of the wind and enjoying the warm sunshine.

*****

Not a grouse was shot during this walk.

*****

MID-SUMMER MISCELLANEA.

Double rainbow over Longridge out of my window.

Haven’t much to report since arriving back from France, how can I be jet-lagged after an hour and a half flight.

The fields opposite my house are being cut by a flotilla of agricultural vehicles, what a contrast to the old days of hay cutting that I was involved with as a youngster.

The weather here has been predictably hot and dry so I’ve been out bouldering on Longridge Fell at three of my favourite crags – Kemple End, Crowshaw and of course Craig Y Longridge.  These three give me choices of sun or shade at varying times of the day so I can escape the sun if needed. Up at Kemple I ventured onto Hodder Buttress to solo the easy slabs and arriving at the top I was concerned about some loose flakes above the climbs, I had great fun trundling these onto the quarry floor thus making the routes safer. Over on the main wall I found that I was struggling on some of the traverses I normally cruised, I blamed this on lack of confidence since my enforced layoff. The view over the Ribble Valley this evening was splendid.

At Crowshaw I was completing a topo of the problems to the left of the main buttress. The quarry bowl here is a delight as the heather starts to bloom and the bilberries ripen. I am content on an evening just to sit here and listen to the bird song.

After these two backwaters Craigy is hardcore bouldering, 100m of overhanging rock, with a regular clientele. I have a section at the far end that is less severe and I can do circuits on relatively good jugs to keep fit.

Whilst up on the fell I popped into Cardwell Quarry where climbing is now banned because of unsociable behaviour by some ‘climbers’. I was surprised to see that not too much vegetation has returned in the lean years. I must go and have another word with the farmer to try and restore climbing here.

I was out in the Ribble Valley today and popped into Witches Quarry. A secluded limestone venue where you drive into the field and park conveniently under the crag! The rock was in good condition and I traversed a little and then soloed the amenable Cracklap, I’m sure this used to be VD. Strangely a gooseberry was growing from the start of the crack.

YET ANOTHER ANGLEZARKE – WHITE COPPICE WALK.

You can’t miss a day like this, warm sunshine and no wind. Even though I was delayed in the morning there was time in the afternoon for this lovely level stroll round the Anglezarke reservoir. I stopped off on the top road to peep into Anglezarke Quarry, Golden Tower Looked as good as ever.

I avoid using the gloomy quarry carpark which closes at 5pm and park on the dam like everybody else. The paths on the west side of the reservoir were busy.

Couldn’t help but look into Lester Mill but the trees restricted any decent views of the rock faces. This was never a popular quarry mainly due to loose rock and dampness but I remember some exciting long routes. Further along were the broken rocks of Stronsey Bank, another esoteric climbing venue. They looked good in the sunshine today.

Chatting away we were soon at White Coppice but continued on a narrow path towards Brinscall and then found a little bridge over the Goit and a route back to the picturesque cricket pitch where a bench in the sun provided a refreshment break. White Coppice cricket ground is unique and well worth a visit if you can find it.

Lanes past old cottages led onto the side of Healey Nab where there is a Life for Life Memorial Forest where one can plant a tree in memory of a loved one. I realise I’ve never been to the summit of the Nab, I must rectify that soon.

Muddy paths and lanes headed back to the dam. All along were views over some of the best of Lancashire. Up here there were even distant sightings of that quarry. Lester Mill, that was obstructed by trees earlier.

As I said you can’t miss days like this.

*****

‘BOWLANDCLIMBER’ – WHAT CLIMBER?

A little inspiration.

Anyone who has been following my posts this year or anyone searching ‘climbing’ will have noticed there has been no climbing. For various reasons I haven’t done a route for the first time in 40 – 50 years.* My climbing friends probably think I’ve died. This was brought home to me the other day when I happened to be in south Preston with one of my now ‘retired’ climbing partners.

I think we are near Denham Quarry” I mentioned,  “let’s go and have a look in

Easier said than done as we drove arround in a maze of forgotten narrow lanes and kept crossing and recrossing the motorway. All of a sudden Holt Lane appeared and the name rang a bell, sure enough a short distance down the lane the familiar car park appeared and there was the quarry.

And there was that striking clean quarry face with the obvious groove line of ‘Mohammed’

In we went and peered up the classic groove which had a few chalk marks on it. When did we last climb this – one for the history books. Its real title is, wait for it, Mohammed the Mad Monk of Moorside Home for Mental Misfits. What’s that all about?

Moving right under the main face other routes were recalled, most of them scary on small holds and poor gear. We survived.

And there was that deep pool, with unknown monsters in its depths, and the lovely soloable Splash Arete above it. Memories.

Back home I reflected that I probably would be struggling on those routes now but my enthusiasm was fired and on a sunny afternoon I’m up at Craig y Longridge traversing around on familiar territory at the easy far end. The crag is bathed in warm sunshine and I’m the only one here so I can laze around as much as possible. I can do the moves but my hands have become soft and soon my skin is protesting, enough.

* PS. The following morning I had a brief visit up to Kemple End and soloed a couple of short routes to break the year’s zero statistics.

 

SW COASTAL PATH. Pendeen to Zennor.

The Granite Coast.

There are several magnificent granite climbing cliffs along this coast but none finer than Bosigran. I first visited here 30 odd years ago and tentatively climbed some easy routes. I returned a few years later on an extended climbing trip with my lovely friend Pete when we climbed every day for a fortnight. In those days I was ticking off routes in the Classic and Hard Rock volumes. There was plenty to go at down here, we were camped near the Logan Rock Inn at Treen on the southern coast but all areas were easily accessible and we roamed far and wide,  we visited Bosi a few times. One day choosing a time of lowish tide we were able to climb the full height [200m] of Commando Ridge. On other days we concentrated on the non-tidal main face, Doorpost Little Brown Jug,, Anvil Chorus all immaculate exciting climbs. Probably most memorable and subsequently tragically ironic was Suicide Wall with a scary traverse across the Coal Face and some very overhanging climbing to reach the top. I remember we rescued a young couple stranded on a ledge by giving them a top rope to safety. We had a wonderful time and today as I pass I reflect that I can no longer reminisce with Pete, God bless him. Surprisingly today depite the perfect weather there was no one climbing on the main face but a climber can just be seen high up on Commando Ridge.

This morning I had taken a late bus back to Pendeen for what should be a short day, first things first – a breakfast bap at Lillies next to the bus stop. I then started by cutting down some ancient lanes between lichen encrusted granite walls and coming across those characteristic stiles of cross pieces of granite, more like a hurdle.I was soon back on the coast and facing steeper gradients and the dreaded steps. High above me on the bracken covered slopes I thought I saw a working party clearing the path, but as I climbed higher realised it had been fell ponies doing the same job efficiently.

From up here there were views onwards to endless bays and headlands, but I keep remembering to look back – Pendeen lighthouse was a prominent landmark but yesterdays coast is a thing of the past. Inland on the rough hills the patchwork of cleared fields is also photogenic. It’s just great to be up here.

The coast was becoming more dramatic and the sea noisier and all of a sudden I was above Bosigran Cliff itself. The ghostly mines above were silhouetted against the sky and people were strolling down from the carpark enjoying the warm sunny weather. I sat for a while taking in the scene and rocky architecture.  I was then soon over the slope and on the switchback path high above the sea. The path was rather awkward through boulders and vegetation and was busy with coastal strollers. At on point I stepped aside into the rough to let a lady through. I muttered something about taking the rough to which she thanked me and as an afterthought remarked “I hope you are not referring to me” which brought a smile to my face.

Other rocky headlands were passed, a large group of children on some sort of adventure course on one of them, I hoped they were all roped on as it all looked rather chaotic. Gurnards Head and finally Zennor Head were places I’d climbed on.

Gurnard’s Head.

There were numerous descents into side valleys at sea level where a stream was often crossed using old granite slabs. This one has had the health and safety people interfering.Many of the sandy bays on this section of coast appear to be very difficult to access and I don’t think I saw anybody down there.

Time was passing quickly, I had a bus to catch and the ups and downs wouldn’t stop. I was glad when at the top of a steep flight of steps a little lane ran up into the popular little village of Zennor, I had no time for explore or visit The Tinners Inn and made for the main road with minutes to spare before my bus appeared. In my short day I had climbed over 2000ft in 7 miles.

Almost there…

*****

SW COASTAL PATH – ‘FURTHEST FROM THE RAILWAYS’

                                                                  Hartland Point.

Clovelly – Hartland Quay.

Hartland Point used to be described last century in tourist brochures as ‘furthest from the railways’ at that time Bude and Bideford, it is even further now. It feels a remote spot on the NW Devon coast marking the place where the path swings from a west to a south direction, the Bristol Channel becomes the Atlantic and the scenery becomes more dramatic.

I’d left Clovelly before it was awake and walked through parkland initially to reach to reach the Angel Wings an old estate carved wooden shelter. A couple walked past doing the path.

I resisted  a walk to a viewpoint as I wasn’t sure one could continue and so dropped down through woods to Mouth Mill Bay with views ahead to Lundy Island, a place of so many memories for me. Remains of mills and lime kilns in the valley and rocky bay were a reminder of past labour and prosperity. Limestone was brought in by boat and processed into lime for agriculture inland.

Steep steps into NT woodland and then zig zags back down into a valley before the inevitable climb back up and over Windbury Point. From here there were dramatic views back to the hollow arch of Blackchurch Rock which I hadn’t realised was on the beach round the corner at Mouthmill.  A  memorial plaque to a Wellington bomber crash of 1942 was passed. Further on was another memorial, this time to a ship torpedoed by a U-boat in 1918. Both are well tended.

Ahead was a radar dome which was being decommissioned and the path was diverted inland on quiet lanes to Titchberry, no hardship.The walking couple caught me up [we would leapfrog the next few days] – they had been seduced by that viewpoint sign which was as suspected a dead end. By now the wind was increasing and I was glad to reach the great little refreshment shack by a car park. A pleasant young man served me a good coffee and homemade cake, what a treasure.

The lighthouse at Hartland Point was out of bounds but the cliff edge by the CG lookout gave dramatic views. A switchback route went in and out of green valleys to arrive opposite the dramatic cliff of Dyers Lookout. I’d seen pictures of James Pearson climbing impenetrable looking rock to produce  Walk of Life, E9 6c or harder. In real life this looked impossible.

More steep ups and downs and eventually a grassy headland passing an old tower framing Stoke Church and then down to the dramatically situated Hartland Quay Hotel. By now the wind was gale force and the rain troublesome. The hotel was a welcome refuge and a wonderful place to spend the night listening to the waves.

View from my window.

 

 

 

 

WHITBARROW SCAR – a day out with Poppy.

My diary records – 22 October 1988. Circuit of Whitbarrow, Chris and Matthew. Glorious day, sunny and warm. 6.5 miles. The weekend before I had been climbing on Castle Rock, Thirlmere, and the next I was off to Morocco, trecking in the Jebel Sahro. Those were the days.

Whitbarrow is a wooded limestone ridge towering above the Kent Estuary prominently seen from across the water on the road to Arnside and its crags driven under on the Barrow road. Wainwright gives it a chapter in his Outlying Fells book. I hadn’t been back since that day so I was pleased when Sir Hugh suggested it for today’s walk. I managed to persuade the Rockman and his dog to come along saying it would be a short trip as Sir Hugh is recovering from a broken elbow and is only just using his walking poles. The morning was dreadful with floods developing from the torrential downpour but by the time we met up at Mill Side, there was a glimpse of something better. The keenest member of the party was Poppy the Airdale Terrier.

What followed was a switchback route through woods, steep slippery slopes, glorious open ridge walking and first-class limestone scenery. The Rockman and I just followed the intrepid Sir Hugh who was obviously rejoicing in his newfound freedom, at times we all had to be careful not to suffer any further injury. Some paths I think were known only to him. Poppy jogged along contentedly and took all the considerable obstacles in her stride, though she seemed happiest when we stopped for lunch at the highest point, Lords Seat,

We completed a figure of eight course which included a close encounter with the base of Chapel Head Scar, a bastion of limestone hosting difficult sports climbs. I had never climbed here and I never will when I realised the grades. However, above the crag, reached by a precipitous path, is a beautiful meadow which seemed perfect for a summer bivi looking out to the west over the Kent Estuary. There are paths everywhere and the whole area is worthy of further exploration, I particularly would like to walk closer under the southern White Scar cliffs which we seemed to miss by being in the woods, hereabouts our legs and conversation were just beginning to drag for the last half mile.