Category Archives: Lancashire.

SOCIAL DISTANCING TO SELF-ISOLATION. Reasons to be cheerful.

It’s a wonderful time of the year with some exceptional weather, the blossoms are appearing and we’ve just gone onto British Summertime which I always look upon as a turning point.

My cat manages to sleep from dawn to dusk finding warm sunshine throughout the day. I’m jealous.

Last week I was going out for short walks from home Social Distancing as I went. Then this week I developed a sore throat, fever and headaches;  I’m sure, or almost sure, that this isn’t the coronavirus but the rules say if you have symptoms then Self Isolation is necessary for 7 days.

That’s no great hardship as I’m pretty self-reliant but I think I misread the rules and thought I was not to leave my house at all  [that is Shielding – we all have to get accustomed to these new terms]  So I’ve stopped going out altogether which is probably wise in any case. Hence no walking in this post.

I’m fine for food and medicines and have been pleasantly surprised by the offers of help in that direction. Thanks to those concerned.

My telephone line has never been so busy as I catch up with friends near and far.

And there is the bonus of a new friend who is almost hand tame after a couple of days gardening. On a larger scale, the night skies have been clear with a bright crescent moon and an even brighter Venus.

Lots of positives there.

 

SOCIAL DISTANCING WALK – Mark III.

The other half of Bleasdale.

I felt more and more anxious as I drove a few miles this morning. I was shocked by the interview I heard on the radio the other night with an A and E specialist from Manchester. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0877mb2?fbclid=IwAR3vAf2InWHLrkSV5t5vMWedzZYA0VR5ykZKvzz7IWmrp5po4hUqJQhZTx8   His message was simple and fairly to be vigilant with social distancing, stay inside if possible and avoid unnecessary journeys. Yet here am I driving ‘unnecessarily’. I won’t be doing it again.

My attempts to exercise whilst socially distancing in the vicinity of my house have proved mixed – busy roads, too many people walking and flooded fields. I was, therefore, prepared to drive a short distance today to reach unfrequented lanes for a circular walk. I was having second thoughts and drove extra carefully to avoid any accidents, as it was there were few cars on the road and all appeared to be driving slowly.

I park up near the access road to Bleasdale Tower and Estate. I had an enjoyable walk around part of the estate last week, so will complete the other half today. The morning is superb – blue skies and bright sun. My mood improves a little as I walk along the empty road. As I gain height I convince myself the exercise is doing me some good. A cyclist passes me zigzagging up the steep hill. The walk continues along deserted estate roads, passing a couple of cottages and going by Bleasdale Tower which is well secluded behind walls and hedges.  The house was built in the early C19th by the Garnett family from Salford who greatly improved the estate land. It was a descendant who established the North Lancaster Remormatory School on the estate which I described in that previous post. The surrounding modest hills looked majestic in the sunshine, I wonder when I’ll be on them again.

Today’s photos don’t do the area justice and somehow seem incidental to my general mood.

I was soon on the road by the gatehouse, having successfully met no-one and I’m now back home in lockdown mode. I’m expecting a letter from Boris telling me to stay in for at least 12 weeks. Not sure if I’ll still be able to walk for exercise without risk to myself or the public. None of us has experienced anything like this situation before and we certainly don’t know how it will pan out in the next few weeks and months. I fear the worst.

My neighbour has just brought me some homemade leek and potato soup, left on the doorstep. It will go well with my practice loaf of bread that I made a couple of days ago.

Since I wrote this I’ve accepted that I shouldn’t be doing any unnecessary driving to go for a walk so from now on will be walking from home only.  23/03/2020.

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SOCIAL DISTANCING WALK – Mark II.

I’m trying to exercise whilst social distancing and at the same time reduce driving to a minimum. Yesterday I was on roads all the way and didn’t really enjoy the experience, today I’ll attempt another walk direct from home but this time avoiding busy roads so I’ll need to get my boots dirty.

So off we go. It is another beautiful day, the Spring Equinox. I’m soon into fields, yes they are boggy but I’m enjoying the bird song. For the record, I see Deer, Hares, a Stoat and lots of lambs. The lambs photographed better than the rest.

 

All around me are hills – the Bowland Fells, Waddington Fell and Longridge Fell.

I pass a deserted country inn, the catering trades are having a hard time. Such a shame as everything is looking so good in the spring sunshine.

Towards the end of my walk, I use an old track to cut a corner off the road but wish I hadn’t as it was virtually impassible with mud and branches.

On the last stretch of road, I spot this beast waiting for restoration.

So today was more acceptable than yesterday but I still ended up with some road walking and the fields were very unpleasant in places.

Body count today, one pedestrian and one runner, both on the roads. Nobody was out in the fields despite the perfect weather. I think it is going to have to be all off-road but on decent tracks until the ground dries or we are all grounded.

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SOCIAL DISTANCING WALK – Mark I.

If you don’t meet it you won’t catch it.

Engaging in a healthy diet [if you can buy it in the chaos of our supemarkets] and exercising regularly are both recommended to keep a high immunity and a positive mental approach during this worldwide crisis. There are scores of articles out there detailing methods for survival. In my last post I shared the British Mountaineering Club’s sensible advice which may well change in the coming days. Today dawned the perfect walking day, bright sunshine and clear crisp air. Time to put my boots on – but where to go?  I thought to keep it local and risk-free – don’t want to put a burden on Mountain Rescue teams or ambulances and casualty.

So a walk around the roads from my house seemed sensible. I peer out to check nobody else about, I am highly vulnerable you need to know. I set off at a brisk pace down the lane and immediately bump into a neighbour who wants to chat, it is embarrassing trying to keep 2metres away.

At last, I’m out of the village but I hate the main road I’m on with cars and lorries flashing past within 2 feet never mind 2 metres – have they not heard the government advice.

I didn’t reach a calm space until branching off up Back Lane and into Ashley Lane. Along here I caught up with another walker who crossed the road to avoid me, people have been doing that for years so I wasn’t surprised. Along this stretch birds were singing and some gathering nesting material, Buzzards were flying overhead, it felt great to be out in the open and worries disappeared.

At the road junction, the Bowland Fells appeared in the distance with Beacon Fell, Fairsnape, Parlick, Birkett Fell, Waddington Fell and Longridge Fell all lined up in a splendid panorama.

As I walked into Longridge the dismal sight of traffic jams caused by new developments greeted me. Gloom descended once more.

I won’t use this route again because of the traffic on the roads. I will endeavour to come up with a better alternative for tomorrow’s Social Distancing walk.

Potential viral persons encountered   5.

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THE BLEASDALE CIRCLE AGAIN.

Bleasdale Circle with Fairsnape and Parlick looming above.

Another of my winter favourites. This circuit is mainly on lanes and good tracks but takes one right into the hills. I’ve written about it many times but today I have come across some interesting new facts.

For a start, Bleasdale School dating from 1850 where I park is now closed. It soldiered on since the Millenium with about a dozen pupils from the surrounding farms but when the number dropped to two or three its fate was inevitable.

Up the lane, the Parish Hall is heated using a wood pellet boiler with a wind turbine to generate electricity, forward-thinking for a small community. Further on is the uniquely named St. Eadmer Church.

The lane then heads into the hills past a few farms. A footpath diverts to visit Bronze Age Bleasdale Circle. Originally two circles of wooden posts with ditches and a central burial chamber. The wooden posts of the inner circle have been replaced by concrete posts but still are evocative of the site. There is the usual speculation as to the uses of these circles and their positioning. Burial urns from the site have been on view at the Harris Museum in Preston.  The whole site has been planted with a circle of trees which are visible from many parts of Bleasdale. The outer circle, obstructed by the trees, was possibly from an earlier Neolithic era. Ritual sites are often reused over the ages. I visited it today and got my feet very wet in the approach fields.

themodernantiquarian.com

Further into Bleasdale, there is a section of boggy ground before the next farm tracks which come in from the west, like crossing a watershed. All around are good views of the surrounding hills. As well as the Curlew and Lapwings a small flock of Pied Wagtails entertain me flitting along the wall tops. I’m now approaching the properties of the Bleasdale Estate. The estate is now run as partly agricultural and partly a shooting concern but I’ve just unearthed some of its history.

In the C19th a Mr Garnett lived in nearby Bleasdale Tower, he was an agricultural reformer and philanthropist and in 1857 founded The North Lancashire Reformatory School constructed on the estate. It catered for over a hundred boys who worked on the land and in trades such as tailoring and shoemaking as well as receiving an education

“In November 1857, a few weeks after its opening, three boys escaped from the institution due to the fence wall having not been completed. They were all apprehended in Preston the same evening and returned to the Reformatory.”

“Of the 51 discharges for 1865 thirty-three were doing well, twelve convicted, one dead and five missing”

As I walked down the lane today I crossed over Clough Head Brook on a substantial stone bridge which apparently was constructed by the boys. Stonemasons’ tools are depicted on the parapet.

The lane goes through the original school buildings which are now used as cottages and workhouses for the estate. The school enlarged over the years and eventually closed in 1905. A map from 1893 shows the school

In a wall on the corner is a King Geoge V post box [1910 -36]

Taking the shorter route on tarmac brought me past Brooks Farm where an arched ‘packhorse’ bridge is visible over the River Brock. Despite its appearance, it was never built for horses with steep steps at either end. It is not on a known packhorse trail and didn’t appear on maps till 1893. It has been suggested that the bridge was built to provide access from Bleasdale Tower to Bleasdale Church, I wonder if those reform boys built it.

In the wood nearby are some new, not particularly attractive, chalet type holiday lets, a sign of the estate diversifying.

My way back to the school was enclosed by smart beech hedging for which the estate is renowned.

I took this photo of the Bleasdale hills on my way home, St. Eadmer’s church is right of centre.*****

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This walk was completed two days ago and since then advice about walking and climbing during the coronavirus emergency has been sensibly updated. As I’m in the vulnerable group I’m taking heed. We are all responsible for limiting the seriousness of the situation in the next few months.

BMC Advice.  18/03/2020

  • People need access to the countryside for their health – both mental and physical.
  • Follow the most current NHS advice regarding health and distancing. Currently Public Health England’s advice is: “you can go for a walk outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others.”
  • Consider your means of travel and distance – close to home is best and, despite the environmental impact, it’s better to be in personal cars than public transport at the moment.
  • Stick to familiar areas and low-risk activities.
  • Reduce your risk. Be very aware that medical and rescue services and facilities are going to be extremely stretched and overwhelmed. It would be socially irresponsible to be taking risks at this time that could place an additional burden on medical and emergency services.
  • Do not assume that Mountain Rescue will be available. There is a real possibility of reduced or even no cover for rescue in some areas as this develops.

 

CURLEW COUNTRY, STANLEY FELL.

I’ve set the bar high with trying to keep my feet dry in the wet weather we’ve had. But I’ve found another walk which takes me on lanes into the rough fell country between Chipping Vale and the Bowland Fells, namely Stanley Fell. There is nothing more evocative of this wild habitat at this time of year than the cries of the Curlew and the Lapwing. They were both present in voice and vision whilst in the gale-force winds unable to be photographed, but you all know what they look like.

Walking up the road there was little traffic. More hens out on the loose than cars. White railings were used on corners of country lanes to improve visibility. I turned off into the Leagram Estate and passed the dell where snowdrops were in profusion last week. The next farm has a surfeit of sheep and lambs under roof all looking very healthy, they breed BlueFaced Leicesters here..

I love these tree roots.

Lanes continue to more remote farms many now upmarket residences. Ahead is proud Parlick. I’m getting into the hills.

I come out onto a road where Saddle End Farm is up the hill, I’m not going that way today but buy a half dozen free-range eggs at the end of their lane. I wonder if anyone is up on Fairsnape in this gale.

Saddle End Farm.

Turning right I follow the last of the tarmac which leads to the remotest farm, Burnslack. A culverted stream runs alongside. I recall coming here with my young children and exploring through the concrete pipes, admittedly not in flood conditions, to emerge higher up the stream – nine out of ten for child cruelty.

The way in…

A bridleway heads into the hills where the curlew are calling. On the way, a gate hangs on across the track, not even baler twine will save this one.

There is an old ford over a lively stream, I often feel an urge to follow these waters up to their hidden source, an endless task. This is remote country, not a coronavirus insight. As I come over the watershed there are the limestone knolls of Dinkling ahead and in the background Birkett Fell and Warrington Fell. Expansive uplifting scenery.

The track drops down to Lickhurst Farm, now a complex of stone residential conversions. Below is a little valley, a motorist parked up asks me where the Forest of Bowland is – I tell him he is in it and direct him through Little Bowland to the Inn at Whitewell. An old limekiln is passed…

… and a little further a low bridge over a stream, this used to be a ford and alongside is the original stone clapper bridge. This is unique in being a single stone over 15ft long. [Now guarded by wooden handrails.] All evidence of a way of living long past.

The road goes on by that often photographed and isolated red phonebox.

I have friends living in the Higher Greystoneley farm buildings so a cup of tea is very welcome. From there another stoney bridleway drops down to a ford, with wooden footbridge, and through limestone country to my car. I drive home in the gale knowing my feet remained dry and looking forward to poaching one of those farm eggs for lunch.

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A GLOOMY LONGRIDGE FELL.

With all this wet weather I’ve become obsessive about keeping my feet dry and out of the mud so today I walk up Longridge Fell on forest tracks and return on the road. I’m still restricted to a few hours in the day so It suits me to do another short walk whilst the weather is dry. I’m following a popular dog walking trail, I can tell that from all those black plastic bags by the track but I don’t want to spoil my walk by becoming angry so I ignore them. Every time you come up here there has been more tree felling changing the nature of the walks. They seem to plant new saplings amongst the debris of the felling without worrying about the remaining stumps.

There is evidence of the strength of the recent storms with trees casually uprooted. Onwards and upwards I go, I have no intention of getting my trainers dirty by going to the summit, I’m content getting some exercise on the tracks. I detour to a viewpoint towards the Bowland Fells which I always enjoy. These are size 12s if you need any.

Back on the main track, it starts to descend in sweeping curves, would be great on a mountain bike, towards Kemple End with Pendle In the distance. On reaching the road all I have to do is turn right and follow it back to my car less than two miles away. I normally avoid roads when there are alternative paths but this quiet highway turns out to be pleasantly undulating with views to the south. It certainly serves the purpose of keeping my shoes clean and dry. Halfway along is a small stream, Brownslow Brook,  coming off Longridge Fell which appears to be culverted into a water collecting plant, I’ve never noticed it when driving this road and I can find no clue to its function. I’m back home for lunch thinking it was probably me rather than the fell that was gloomy.

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