The phone rang shortly after 7am. It was going to be a very hot day and Dave suggested a walk over Fairsnape, above Chipping, early on. I grabbed a drink and my camwera and we were soon climbing the old track up Saddle Fell with a lovely breeze keeping us cool. I can only surmise that this track was for sledging down peat from the cloughs above. Crossing a fence before the watershed the track has been ‘improved’ with stones and gives a good walking surface to the true summit of Fairsnape, 520m. The last few yards of bog have been paved with slabs though today everything was so dry one could walk anywhere. Taking out my camera to record the summit I found the battery completely flat hence no pictures to accompany this post. The above photo taken later from Longridge Fell shows Parlick and Fairsnape to the left with Saddle Fell central. Below is the village of Chipping and lower right you can see the Steam Fair site which is open all Spring Bank weekend and attracts visitors from far afield.
The walk along the ridge was as dry as I have known it, we cut downhill before the trigpoint. Skylarks were singing and fluttering high above and several pairs of Curlews were flying past with their haunting call. A small brown bird flew up from under my feet and there in the heather was the most perfect round little nest lined with grass and containing four brownish eggs, probably Meadow Pipit. I cursed the lack of my camera.
Skirting round the west side of Parlick we avoided the worst of the steep descent and contoured back under the fells to Saddle End and the car. We were back home for lunch before the hottest part of the day. Only the next day did I discover a tick embedded in my groin which I quickly and cleanly removed with my extracting device. These little menaces seem to be becoming more common in sheep rearing areas and as they have the potential to carry Lymes Disease care should be taken to avoid them. I was asking for trouble walking in shorts.
The prow, Wilton 1.
Jonathon is a busy family man but he thought he could fit in this Saturday climbing. Mid week we made arrangements for a trip to maybe the Lakes or Derbyshire as the weather had been dry. Friday night when I checked the forecast I was dismayed to see rain forecast by lunchtime throughout the area. He knew the same so in the morning we decided on more local rock to get a few routes done to salvage the day. A quick drive down the motorway and by 10am we were stood under the prow in Wilton One. I realise what a large and impressive face this is. The sky had already clouded over.
He had not done Fingernail so that would be our warm up route, both being a bit rusty. There was a bit of a struggle to get off the ground and lasso the metal hook but then he was away despite taking the direct layback line into Horrock’s Route at the top. I also dithered at the bottom, glad of a rope above. The holds seemed small and slopey despite being clean and dry. In the niche I didn’t fancy the layback so traversed round the arete onto the exposed delicate slab the correct way, I had forgotten how exposed and delicate! There is some debate as to the correct grading of this climb Severe 4a to VS 4c I incline towards the latter.
The ‘direct’ finish
As we descend carefully from the prow spots of rain darken the rock. Back at the foot of the climbs we get into the familiar ritual – it’s just passing over, lets give it a bit longer, it will soon dry etc. Well it didn’t and the heavens opened, by the time we were back at the car we were thoroughly soaked. Our only consolation was that if we had driven anywhere further afield we would have done nothing and anyhow, as his wife said giving us hot tea, Jonathon would be able to do some more work on the house.
The garage where I bought my car from last year lies on The Guild Wheel circuit. When I phoned to arrange the yearly service I was surprised the appointment, they have become very clinical in garages, was on Easter Monday, so rather than waste the day in went the bike. The receptionist, very clinical, was taken aback by my Lycra and helmet and doubted I would be back within the 2 hours the service would take. I set off on the Wheel in an anticlockwise direction and after a couple of miles I was investigating the lock gates from the Ribble into Preston docks when a familiar voice caught my ear and there was one of my sons and his partner cycling the opposite way. They were visiting from Manchester and doing a quick circuit before dining with family. I was invited to join them and soon was retracing my ride past the garage I had left a short while ago. I meant to mention that this garage is part of a multi motor showroom complex – there are cars and salesmen everywhere.
The day was cool and dry, we made good progress around the northern half of the Wheel. I managed to keep up with their youthful pace but was glad of a coffee stop in, say it quietly, Starbucks.That reminded me of a picture I took in Bethlehem a couple of years ago.
Onwards and down through the woods at Redscar where the bluebells were just colouring up. Now the fact it was Easter Monday hit home as all the way through Brockholes the path was thronged with families enjoying the sunshine. Slow progress. The pace quickened on the stretch by the river and after that my companions took a different route up into Preston. From here the crowds thickened again and I realised it was the famousegg rolling day in Avenham Park so it was simpler and safer to dismount and walk with the crowds. There was a great party atmosphere – egg-rollers, fair goers, music and dance entertainment and general family happiness. I tarried to absorb it all.
Even after leaving the park the route through the docks was thronged with people, the steam train was running. I arrived back at the garage after three hours to collect my car, complete with its clinical diagnostic sheet. I complemented the receptionist on their efficiency and enthused how easily I fitted the cycle into the boot.
Everyone seemed happy on this sunny Easter Monday.
I can’t believe I was climbing a few days ago in a T shirt as this morning the cold dull weather continues towards Easter. I rouse myself to do a favourite short walk from home to see what is happening in the countryside. Longridge Fell looks broodingly down on the start of my walk into a field full of seagulls, they are unusual so they must be feeding on something – possibly recent muck spreading.
A glance at the 1:25000 map shows many small ponds in these fields, they are the remains of Marl Pits dug in the 19th century to provide lime rich clay for spreading on the fields to improve the soil. They now provide an interesting habitat for wildlife and plants. One near here unfortunately is used by the duck shooting fraternity, today the mallards were paddling happily. A couple of larger ponds used to keep my children happy for hours fishing for god knows what.
I passed a few metal gates which are for access to a line of aqueducts crossing this area, the Thirlmere aqueduct to Manchester and the Hodder aqueduct to Blackpool. Generally the former has black gates whilst the latter green. A useless bit of information.
On the lanes Blackthorn was in flower before its leaves appeared, the reverse of the Hawthorn, May Blossom. The phrase “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out” was particularly pertinent today in the cold wind. Better information.
Sheep were with lambs and the cattle were being let out into the fields. I came across a particularly threatening breed of sheep.
Pit Bull sheep.
Since I was last this way a memorial seat has been erected – “he loved this farm” a lovely sentiment.
Passing three popular hostelries …
Ferraris Country Hotel.
… shunning them all I arrived home in under a couple of hours. The weather shows no sign of improving but at least I’ve had some exercise.