Category Archives: Lancashire Witches Walk.


The heart of Bowland.

I knew this would be a long arduous day so I did it out of sequence in the good weather mid-September. I used devious tactics to complete the walk but I’m happy to write it up as it should be.

Head of Whitendale. A Wainwright. 1981.

Following a coffee at Puddleducks Cafe,  I set off along the lane out of Dunsop Bridge heading into the fells. A gentle stroll, alongside the Dunsop River, leads to the prominent Middle Knoll where the water board roads divide, one going left into the Brennand Valley the other going right into Whitendale. Wainwright’s Way follows the latter but I know a better way.  Cross the river and follow a path up the right bank before climbing into Costy Cough and picking up a level path all the way to Whitendale Farm.

Middle Knoll.

Costy Clough.

Whitendale Farm.

There is lots of interest along this path but today the highlight was seeing a Hen Harrier rising from the valley and fluttering up the fell. This is a rare sight these days as their population over grouse moors has been drastically reduced by foul means. Bowland should have a decent population of Hen Harriers, a book well worth seeking out is Bowland Beth by David Cobham which highlights major issues in UK conservation.

At Whitendale Farm, part of the Duchy of Lancaster, paths go in several directions. WW goes up the valley following the Whitendale River. The dogs in the kennels give you a good send-off. This is shooting country and bred pheasants are everywhere. The grouse shooting this year has been restricted due to the Heather Beetle devastating large areas. It is usually a squelchy route up the valley and today is no different. A few random boardwalks don’t really help but the waymark posts keep one in the right direction. I plod upwards in the heat with the occasional submerged leg.

Side valleys often have Ring Ousels and Dippers but none today.  A post on the Hornby Road beckons and I’m soon sat on a convenient rock for a snack, I could probably sit here for hours before another person appeared.  This old road over Salter Fell has been described as one of the best moorland walks in England. The Romans came this way en route from Manchester to Carlisle and then the packhorses, bringing salt to Lancashire and wool to the coast. The Lancashire Witches were dragged across to Lancaster Court for sentencing and hanging. I’m surprised that WW comes up Whitendale, a difficult route rather than the easier way from Slaidburn, AW was familiar with both. His Bowland Sketchbook from 1981 illustrates the area well and he had a certain respect for relatively unknown Bowland, not much has changed from his time.

I set off along the good track, below on the left is the head of Whitendale and way above the rocks of Wolfhole Crag. All is wild and remote. the track follows the slopes of Salter Fell for a good way before views open up to the west. The infant Roeburn River gradually gains volume running west, To the north Ingleborough and its neighbours stand out, a little hazily in the afternoon sun. The silence is only disturbed by a couple of motorcyclists making the through trip.

Upper Roeburndale.

A lone cyclist comes the other way. The track goes on and on and slowly loses height towards Higher Salter Farm. There are hazy views of the Lakes, Howgills and the Barbon Fells. The last time I was up here was on The Lancashire Witches Walk which at Higher Salter veers off to Littledale and Caton Moor.



Higher Salter Farm.

Higher Salter Farm.  A Wainwright. 1981.

Today I carry on past Middle Salter to Lower Salter where there is a small Methodist chapel. Built in 1901 it will have been a meeting place for the far-flung farms in Roeburndale. It was open so I rested a while in its plain interior.                                                                                                                                                                               Looking back up the Salter Fell Road Mallowdale Pike is prominent, described by AW as “one of the few fells in Bowland with a graceful outline”  It is an outlier of the Clougha Pike/ Ward’s  Stone range. The road drops further to cross the Roeburn, a river of hidden delights. WW follows the road for almost a mile with the bonus of good views to the Northeast but I notice concessionary paths possibly by the river, I haven’t time to explore today but make a mental note to return.

Reaching Back Farm the way goes steeply down into the heavily wooded valley on a path that gets little use. There are signs of occupation: yurts, sheds, coppicing, vegetable plots, orchards between the trees. Looks like an organic environmental settlement but there is nobody about.

A narrow wooden bridge crosses the river into more orchards. There is still no sign of anybody about. I suspect that one of those concessionary paths would bring you here without the road walking. Anyhow, I gain a cart track leading up through the woods and fields to arrive at a small road heading back down to a converted mill. Wray Mill started as a woolen mill but adapted to produce silk, cotton a nd bobbins, it closed in the 1930’s.  Kitten Bridge, nice name, crosses the Roeburn and a little track leads straight into Wray.

This bridge was washed away in the August 1967 floods along with cottages at the lower part of Wray. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been in Wray before, it’s off the beaten track. Anyway, the Main Street off the main road is a pleasant collection of cottages with a homely feel to it. There aren’t many buses so I have to continue a further mile through fields to Hornby. Ingleborough is over my right shoulder all the way and ahead is Hornby Castle, its C13 base obliterated by a C19 Gothic building. I join the River Wenning for the last stretch into the village.

A Wainwright 1980.





                                               Looking down a murky Croasdale.

One seldom meets another person in upper Croasdale but today the Salter Fell track was busy with contractors making repairs to a steep section of the road above New Bridge. The road, also known as Hornby Road, dates from Roman times – Watling Street that ran from Manchester to Carlisle.  It was along this road that the Lancashire Witches were taken from Clitheroe to Lancaster and in fact the last time I walked it was following a long distance walk called the Lancashire Witches Walk from Barrowford to Lancaster. Back to today I was with JD, both of us needing some exercise. A lorry was taking stone up to the repairs and the driver told us of the cost to Lancs. County Council who apparently are obliged to maintain the highway, for whose benefit I’m not sure. An awful lot of potholes around Longridge could have been repaired for less. The repairs were extensive and thorough but not lot of work seemed to getting done today. More stone was being extracted from the higher quarry which in the past had been used for the construction of Stocks Reservoir dam in the thirties.

Track repairs with one of the Lancashire Witches Walk tercet waymarkers.

It took longer than usual to reach the top gate where we left the track and headed uphill through the heather. Looking westwards are views of upper Whitendale and remote Wolhole Crag, this is wild Bowland country. I found the tiny sheep trod that traversed to the first group of Bull Stone boulders where we had our refreshments. The day was rather dull but there was no wind and silence prevails up here. Looking down the wide valley of Croasdale a misty Pendle rose in the distance. I had resisted bringing up my rock shoes but now regretted it as the conditions were perfect. Big boots would not have stuck to the friction slabs.

Sketch of the same scene from the Bowland Beth book mentioned below.

For a taste of the bouldering up here have a look at

We wandered on below more rocks, all bringing back memories to me though JD had never been here. So it was a great pleasure to show him the massive stone trough carved on the hillside.

We found the little trod heading down valley and at the ford we decided to continue down rough marshland to look at the bothy and surrounding sheep-pens. About ten years ago I spent a couple of nights here with my teenage grandson whilst we explored the surrounding fells. In those days Hen Harriers were a common sight on these Bowland fells which were an important breeding ground for these beautiful birds. Things have gone downhill since then with more and more persecution of raptors on grouse moors where the shooting lobbies run roughshod. I have just been reading a little book about the short life of Bowland Beth, born near this spot. A thoughtful analysis of the plight of wild life on shooting estates.

Bowland Beth. The life of an English Hen Harrier.   David Cobham.     William Collins.

The bothy was unlocked but the flagged floor had been soiled by animals. It did not look an attractive proposition for an overnight stay now but would soon clean up.

Onwards down the valley with a few stream crossings and then we climbed back up the road passing on the way the remains of the House of Croasdale, a 17th century farmhouse built on the site of an ancient hunting lodge. It would have witnessed the witches being taken across the fells.

Remains of House of Croasdale.

An interesting circuit as usual although a little sunshine would have helped with the photos.






THE WAY OF THE CROW. Fifth day, Postern Gate to The Lune.

                    The classic English countryside of Qurnmore Hall Park.

Quernmore Park estate forms the most formidable obstacle to our straight line route and over the last week in anticipation Sir Hugh and I have been plotting a military style assault. Using aerial photos and maps we have tried to find a way through, unobserved, without too many unclimbable fences, we have more plan A, B, C and D’s than the present Brexit debacle. There’s not a public footpath in sight. However our chief negotiator is highly skilled and has behind the scenes obtained permission from the owners to walk through on the forbidden lane. Here we are at the Postern Gate on a bright afternoon ready to stride past all the private signs to join the privileged classes.

The hall itself was well hidden behind walls and security gates.

To be honest we enjoyed our passage through the grounds even being greeted by the owner half way through.

At the end we emerged at the North Lodge onto a busy road, which would not have been pleasant or safe to walk along, a quick climb over a gate had us into a steep field leading down towards the River Lune. Fortunately another fence assault brought us onto the Lune Valley Ramble route and a clear walk along the old Lancaster to Wennington railway, closed under the Beeching axe in the 1960s and now a landscaped cycle path as far as Bull Beck, Caton. A complete contrast to the previous parkland.

On the opposite bank were new houses built since my last visit. They looked like affordable housing and were impressively roofed in solar panels.

The old station at Halton was busy, not with passengers but with students gathering for an afternoon’s rowing on the river. They have use of the listed building as a boat house which according to their coach costs a fortune.

A satisfying short walk through forbidden ground, all should be easy from now on.


THE LANCASHIRE WITCHES WALK – Caton Moor to Lancaster Castle.

Our final stage of this fascinating walk began high on the Caton Moors. The well known, when  viewed from the motorway, wind turbines were rotating rapidly in the strong wind as we passed. Up here today we had extensive views of the Bowland Fells, Ingleborough and Pennine fells north, the Lune Valley and Morecambe Bay, an exhilarating start to the day. In a picnic area we found our first tercet of the day, No 6. A lane coming from nowhere brought us down into Brookhouse and we explored the back lanes and pretty houses of the village, roses seem to be a specialty of the gardens here.

Across the main road we joined the Lune Valley Ramble into Lancaster along an old railway. All of a sudden humanity appeared – dog walkers, joggers and cyclists supporting the idea of good exercise and being able to participate in a safe and beautiful environment. Well done Lancaster with the help of European money!  Two men were setting off  cycling coast to coast  to Bridlington, a route my son speaks highly of. They were an odd couple one young and fit on a classy bike, the other hoping to rely on his electric motor to get across the Pennines. I hope their enthusiasm saw them through although I suspect they will have been very wet at the weekend. We crossed the famous Crook Of Lune [painted by Turner] on an impressive bridge. More cyclists were passing the next tercet. For a break we sat on the banks of the river below a weir near Halton old station. A fisherman engaged us in conversation about all things Lancashire, No fish were caught. it was about at this time that the zip on Sir Hugh’s shorts malfunctioned causing great hilarity to the fisherman and great embarrassment to the wearer. Apologies to anyone in Lancaster whom we shocked or offended.

A pleasant stretch on a lane parallel to the motorway followed, large puddles where evidence of recent rainfall. We were heading for the castle but first we visited the prominent hill forming part of Williamson Park thought to be the site of the witches’ gallows, and now the site of the 9th tercet.  We wandered through attractive parkland and climbed up the baroque Ashton Memorial for views over Lancaster and the surrounding areas. Then it was down busy streets across town passing the Golden Lion pub where the witches were supposed to have been offered a final drink on the way to be hung – an unlikely tale. Incongruously two walkers in shorts, with walking poles, marched through the shopping area and eventually climbed up to the impressive castle gates and the last tercet. A lot of restoration work is going on so we didn’t linger.

Thus we had completed a trail full of interest which deserves to be better known.

The complete poem

‘The Lancashire Witches’ by Carol Ann Duffy

One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.

Here, heavy storm-clouds, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.

From poverty, no poetry
but weird spells, half-prayer, half-threat;
sharp pins in the little dolls of death.

At daylight’s gate, the things we fear                                                                                               darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.

Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon

below which Demdike, Chattox, shrieked,
like hags, unloved, an underclass,
badly fed, unwell. Their eyes were red.

But that was then- when difference
made ghouls of neighbours; child beggars                                                                                              feral, filthy, threatened in their cowls.

Grim skies, the grey remorse of rain;
sunset’s crimson shame; four seasons,
centuries, turning, in Lancashire,

away from Castle, Jury, Judge,
huge crowd, rough rope, short drop, no grave
only future tourists who might grieve.

Sir Hugh’s own blog tells a similar tale of our progress –

THE LANCASHIRE WITCHES WALK – Clitheroe to Slaidburn.

The scenery changes today as we leave the Ribble Valley and climb into the Bowland Hills. Rain is forecast and its rather dull in Clitheroe. Canoeists float downstream as we cross the river at Brungerley Bridge  and a group of youngsters are on the field path learning navigation.  We soon leave them behind and cross fields around Waddington, most of the farms/barns look hundreds of years old but many have had expensive makeovers.  Looking back Pendle Hill is in cloud. The hay meadows we pass through are full of flowers and brighten up a dull day. I have a painting at home representing the same scene. As we climb onto the moor on a drove road we realise we have been here together before whilst exploring Easington Fell last winter.There are no views today in the low cloud which is a shame as this is a wild and desolate moor. On the map are marked The Wife and Old Ned but they turn out to be disappointing piles of stones. A good track, presumably shooting, takes us down the fell to a shooting lodge marked as Fell Side. Dogs are caged up and greet us excitedly. At the moment we arrive the rain starts so we are lucky to find shelter and tables outside the lodge, lunch is taken. On the approach I had stuck my walking pole under a stone and a metal trap snapped shut almost breaking it, I couldn’t imagine what it could do to fingers. What are they trying to catch? Our lunchtime was enlivened by a ‘turkey’ parading about in front of the windows. The rain stopped and we continued on our way over a hill and down into Slaidburn, usually seen with a backdrop of Bowland Fells, but not today. Our tercet was in the carpark. The village was busy hosting a small steam fair which kept us entertained for awhile though the crowds and vehicles detractied from the normal tranquility of this lovely village. Familiar paths through woods and then open fields gained height, Curlews and Lapwings became a constant sight and sound. On past a graveyard for farming implements which looked like a ‘herd’ of dinosaurs across the land. We finished the day under the Bowland Fells just before the start of Roman Road over Salter Fell. We will want better visibility for that next section.







An interesting day’s walk.

Delightful walking through farmland started the day from Higham. We passed several old farmhouses with mullioned windows and in the distance saw an unusual Gothic feeding shed [on the Huntroyde estate]


The next estate we entered was Read Hall, the walk goes through converted stables and into the parkland next to the rebuilt hall. Its owner in 1612 was Roger Nowell the magistrate who sent the witches to trial at Lancaster. Under Pendle Hill we followed bridleways which may well have been the actual route taken by the carts used to transport the captured witches. We diverted to Spring Wood to view our third tercet.

 Read Hall parkland.

Read Hall parkland.


On arriving at Wiswell we found a hidden pub, Freemasons Arms, and enjoyed a relaxing drink in its cosy bar. The village was a delight to explore with its alleys, stone cottages and neat gardens.

As we wandered through fields towards Clitheroe the sky was blackening over Pendle Hill and before long we were in a brief thunder storm.

Darkening skies.

Darkening skies.


Clitheroe is dominated by its castle and we spent time exploring. In the castle grounds was an ornamental turret, 1850, removed from the parapet of The Houses of Parliament and presented to the Borough of Clitheroe in 1937. Strange. We collected our 4th tercet and finished the day in sunshine at the parish church.



It was a hot morning when Sir Hugh and I parked up next to the Heritage Centre in Barrowford, the start of The Lancashire Witches Walk. Having  found the first tercet installment with its verse and witches’ name we set off through the alleys and cobbled back streets and were pleasantly surprised by the hidden beauty of the town. There were many reminders of its industrial past and we contemplated the human movement to and from the mills on the footpaths we were following today. Soon we were out into rural Lancashire at its best, undulating tracks between small stone built hamlets, over fields and alongside sparkling streams. On arriving in Barley we suddenly collided with mass tourism alongside Pendle Water – more Blackpool than countryside. Somehow we missed the cafe.  Then we were climbing away and passing the presumed site of  Malkin Tower, home of the Demdike family, a ruined hillside farm. .The next hour passed pleasantly but aimlessly circling round Lower Ogden Reservoir passing another tercet.  We ate lunch in the shade high above Newchurch in Pendle. Once in the village the Witches Galore gift shop had to be visited stocking everything from tacky witches to learned books, The lady owner had been there for 30 years and was a wealth of knowledge.  Sir Hugh emerged with a witch to scare his granddaughter and I another black cat, Impulsive shoppers. On a more cultural note we visited the church with its ‘eye of God’ to ward off evil spirits.  I was keen to visit the nearby Faughs Quarry where I’d climbed in the past and where there is a carved face in the rock, ?created by one of the quarry-men. Up to the ridge, Rigg of England, with good views, and then down to the village of Fence where the pub is closed and new housing is taking over.

Old house in Fence.

Old house in Fence.

Along the main road Ashlar House was passed, here some of the witches were questioned by local magistrates in 1612. The route onwards through  Lower White Lee farm was not helpfully waymarked and we had the impression they didn’t want walkers on their land. We finished in Higham with its prominent pub, Four Alls Inn, where one of the  witches, “Chattox” was accused of turning the beer sour  and bewitching the landlord’s son!

A good start to our walk with varied scenery and interesting histor