It’s been a while since I walked alongside Mark Sutcliffe, he of Cicerone’s Walking in Lancashire guide. Apart from a short road walk around Longridge Fell with JD the other day I’ve languished in the house. Time to get going again and test my knee out. I scan the chapters looking for something undemanding. I toss up between Blacko hills, (Chapter 27) and the Clarion House walk on Pendle. The former looks the easiest, even if the latter looks the more interesting. The fact that it was Halloween Eve never crossed my mind as I delved into Pendleside. On reflection the immediate Pendle area would have been chock-a-block. (I like that word) Lucky choice.
My mood in the morning was as gloomy as the weather, but I had enjoyed that extra hour in bed. The weather improved alongside my mood, I was just glad I was in the car post walk when the afternoon deluge hit the area. The M65 virtually came to a halt as the skies blackened and gallons of water came down from somewhere. I’m now safely home.
Let’s park up at Higherford, there is a bridge here now over Pendle Water. I struggle with the car park machine, ‘it’ knows I’m here and will charge me later on my return – that preys on my mind for much of the walk.
Across the way is Pendle Heritage Centre. I think I was too early for its attractions – tearoom. gardens and museum. Maybe later but then it is too late. Park Hill House below has associations with the Bannister family later to run the sub 4 minute mile. I do spot the first Tercet on The Lancashire Witches Walk .
Alongside the water I get into my stride. Autumn is everywhere. There are reminders of previous mill operations, but I am soon out into the countryside.
I’m heading towards Blacko Tower.
A plaque reads Built by J Stansfield1890 Restored 1950. Approximately 30ft high. Built as a folly. Circular. Coursed rubble. Widely spaced battlements. Two steps up to a plain doorway. Spiral stone staircase inside leading to observation platform. Prominent hilltop landmark.
Such a shame there is no public access, it must be a fine viewpoint. Time for the citizens of Blacko to stage a protest march. I make a mental note to return mid-week and make a clandestine ascent.
Today I’m content to follow vague contouring paths on the rough hillside past farms to Malkin Tower Farm. Maybe the site of a ‘witches coven’ in 1612 from where the women were marched off to Lancaster to be tried and executed. There is lots of speculation as to the true version of events. All is quiet today with the farmer’s wife subtly showing me the diverted way. A few arrows would have helped, but all is mysterious around here. At the next farm I weave through a complicated series of gates in their garden. Enquiring of a lady, to confirm my way, that few people walk through here – she says “most get lost”. I doubt the irony strikes her. Again a few yellow arrows wouldn’t go amiss. At last, I’m free and walk down a lane to another farm, Whitemoor Bottom. The guide says take the footpath on the right, but there is no obvious way – I strike boldly through the farmyard and onwards down the fields. This is horsey country and barriers keep appearing, is it this side of the wires or the other? Determination sees me through, and I drop into a wooded gully with little sign of others coming this way. But I’m on course and eventually come out onto a lane at Holly Bush Farm. Sand Hall, which looks as though it should be listed, is passed, and the lane takes me to Foulridge Reservoir.
Time for lunch, so I climb up to the dam for a bird’s eye view of the reservoir. It’s depleted of water and the only action from the sailing club is a model yacht race.
A bridle way takes me to join the canal as it emerges from the mile long Foulridge Tunnel, completed in 1796! A way mark confirms it is the Leeds – Liverpool Canal. Maybe I should walk its historic length one day.
Halfway down the locks a path takes me through a pasture and into an upmarket estate. As I progress down the main road the older stone houses typical of these mill villages appear, Weavers cottages now desirable properties. On the corner by the packhorse bridge is the old toll-house (early C19th) with a board listing prices – almost as complicated as the pay machine in the car park.
A good start to my winter walking, shorter than the guide book suggests, and not a ghost or witch in sight.