Category Archives: Lancashire.

A SHORT PRE-PRANDIAL STROLL – AINSWORTH.

Ainsworth Village, I’ve never been here before, somewhere between Bolton and Bury.

It was time I met up with my friends from here about, the plastic bag man and the professor. The Email said meet at the Duke William, 4pm for a short walk and a meal. I drove up and down the ‘main’ street a few times before realising the pub in question was tucked away on the old toll road, Well Street. It looked inviting, an old coaching inn dating from the C17th and grade II listed so full of little rooms. We booked a table for 5.30 and set off walking.

The plastic bag man had discovered this area whilst being dragged around by his son’s dog and this evening we followed him faithfully.  Within a few hundred yards he realised he’d gone wrong and our faith rapidly diminished but it was a lovely evening so we chilled out and continued in hope, ignoring the backtracking. We didn’t have a map so we were totally in his hands. The track to the Ainsworth Nursing Home [previously a smallpox isolation hospital] was avoided amongst jibes as to whom would be needing it first. Somewhere we passed an attractive row of hand weavers’ cottages but I failed to find them on the map later. Suddenly a reservoir appeared, one of three Lowercroft reservoirs built for some works lower down, presumably cotton mills. We were already in beautiful rural surroundings, that’s the thing about Lancashire mill country there are always green spaces close at hand, even if they are hidden. This used to be known as ‘Black Sheep Country’  a reference to the soot from factory and mill chimneys that once settled on the fleeces of nearby stock. How things have changed.

The track traversed round the water up to a further reservoir or lodge as they are called in these parts. There was the usual mixture of ducks, coots and Canadian geese but also a few swans. A bridge took us over a stream and we then seemed to be heading back. Our guide confidently took us up the drive of some expensive house from where smaller tracks brought us back to the village passing some interesting properties – Hooks Cottage, with its dated lintel, and the Unitarian Chapel.

Supper in the pub was just OK but still we enjoyed an hour or so of friends’ catch up.

On the way tonight we had noticed waymarks for the Village Link. Further research shows this to be a well planned walk linking the historic villages of Holcombe, Hawkshaw, Affetside, Ainsworth, Greenmount and Nangreaves. www.village-link.com

Thats some of our winter walking sorted.

*****

The map below only gives an approximation of where I think we walked.

 

 

‘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.

 

HEDGEROW FRUITS.

After the rigours of last week’s walk in the gales I’ve returned to my usual stroll around Longridge.

I was very aware of the fruits in the hedges as I walked up the lane to the farm. The best of the blackberries have gone but I started to count others and wondered about their edibility and uses.

Hawthorn.  [Cretaegus monogyna]                                                                                  

Very prominent were the red berries of the Hawthorn bushes. Apparently the berries contain potent antioxidants and have been used in herbal remedies for heart problems. Leaving that aside I have found some recipes for jelly and tea, but I’m not convinced as yet.

 

 

Rose Hips.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Scrambling through the hedges were rose bushes with their characteristic red hips at this time of year. Now I know these do make a good jelly and also tea. The itchy seeds need to be removed first and apparently they are best after the first frost.

 

Rowan, Mountain Ash. [Sorbus aucuparia]

                                                                  
I’ve never before considered whether Rowan berries were edible but reading up about them shows they are, again mainly in jellies or jams.

 

 

Elder. [Sambucus nigra]

In past years I’ve made elderflower cordial but not used the berries. They can me used for wine making and also in pies and crumbles.

 

 

Blackthorn Sloes. [Prunus spinosa]

This year seems to have been good for the sloes on the blackthorn which grow commonly round here. I think their main use is for flavouring gin and other spirits.

So a short walk brought several possibilities of hedgerow fare, I will research a few recipes in more detail and return for some Autumnal pickings.

THREE AGAINST ALI – AROUND BLEASDALE.

Most of the photos taken on my phone today are blurred. I was struggling to stand up in a 40-50mph gale, trying to keep my hood on as well as pointing the phone in the general direction of companions Sir Hugh and JD who couldn’t stand up either. After what I said in my last post about choosing the fine days to venture out, especially in the hills, today’s choice was obviously dubious in view of the forecast above. However unsteady my companions appear they have a resolution and resistance to be celebrated, we marched into the eye of the storm named Ali without a flicker of doubt.

Up and over the prominent steep Parlick along the ridge to the highest point of Fairsnape. So far so good, breezy but clear views. A newly flagged path soon disappears as we head into the peat bogs and evasive action is often taken to avoid the worst mires on the ridge. At the lowest point a vague path disappears down Fiendsdale towards Langden Castle, I think we’ll leave that adventure to another day. Our route westwards was again extravagantly flagged for some distance down the rake towards the bowl of Bleasdale. You could see the rain coming in on the storm and it hit us hard for the next hour, the wind was excessive straight at us and the rain in the air stinging on the face. Winter conditions within minutes and a good test for the waterproofs. It seemed a long way down. The usual erudite conversation from my companions was missing as we disappeared into our own worlds of survival. Salvation arrived in the valley as the worst of the rain passed, we could cope with the wind. We had more difficulty coping with some of the precarious stiles en route, Sir Hugh has two artificial knees and wasn’t happy with the contortions necessary to overcome them. Some situations when he was mid stride but hooked up to barbed wire became a mixture of uncontrollable laughter and panic as to his survival. We made it to Bleasdale church where a sheltered bench was gratefully used for sandwiches.

Vague paths across the bowl of Bleasdale led us to Blindhurst Farm through the usual stinking slurry and an outstanding farmhouse amongst the trash.

Despite our misguided attempts to reclimb Parlick we found some traversing sheep ‘tracks’ back to the car. The wind increased in intensity for our finale just to prove a point.

Not unsurprisingly we were the only car parked up.

Remind me next time to forge ahead and take some pictures from the front!

A day not to be missed.

*****

The map below is doubly important today, not only to show you the reader our whereabouts but also to give Sir Hugh an idea of where he had been.

MY DAILY WALK, [well almost daily].

The weather has not been good since my return from France, I feel Autumn is upon us.

It’s noticeable how often I comment on the state of the weather at the start of a post. Is that a British trait, am I obsessed with the climate or does it just reflect the close connection of conditions with my pastimes?  I remember when I was younger and outdoor time at a weekend was precious we would sally forth on walks or climbs whatever the weather. That would result in a fair share of days with no views and a good soaking on the hill or gripping climbs on cold slippery wet rock. Many of those occasions are vivid in my memory, proof of the importance to me of outdoor adventures and the companionships they bring. Character building was a phrase used. Now I take more heed of the forecast and try to choose the better days for my enjoyment or more likely head abroad to avoid the worst of our winter weather.

I’ve rambled off the subject.  I intend, now I’m free of the PMR stiffness, to  do a regular local walk most days to build up my fitness once again. How often have I said that? I have a 4mile circuit on my doorstep that suffices. Not only does one get some healthy exercise but also some physic benefits thrown in.  There are countless literary quotations extolling the virtues of walking, one of the simplest  –  “I have two doctors: my left leg and my right leg.”  G M Trevelyan.

I complain a lot, and will continue to do so, about the housing developments in Longridge destroying the character of the town but I’m still able to do the walk above from the house into the country. Why drive anywhere in mixed weather when a walk can be accomplished from home.   A stroll down the road takes me past the cricket ground where today there was a match which I can stand and watch for a few overs. There’s something special about village cricket which makes it almost hypnotic to engage in, I think it is something to do with the enthusiasm of the players and the gentle clapping of the handful of spectators. Long may it be so. The lane I usually take up onto the fell gives a lovely view back across Chipping Vale to the Bowland Hills. The view is different with the seasons but gives a sense of space and nature within half a mile of leaving home. Today this was heightened by a pair of Buzzards wheeling and mewing above me. Time just goes by whilst you stand and watch. A glance over the reservoir at any other bird life – usually ducks and grebe. And a glance into Craig Y Longridge to see if anyone I know is climbing, not today with the damp conditions. My return down the town’s main street is more mundane but gives the opportunity for social engagement and grocery shopping.

A perfect little circuit, I’m off to do it again today when things will be different.

*****

 

DEEPER INTO CHIPPING VALE.

The Lazy Loud River.

There was a beautiful sunrise today which heralded good weather to come.

I’d arranged with JD to continue our intimate exploration of Chipping Vale by following as close as possible the little River Loud on its way to join the Hodder. My route was ambitious as from previous experience I know some of these paths are rarely walked. I was hoping for an easy day because of my recent stiffness and should have been concerned with the first stile we encountered off the road, awkward and overgrown. To be honest we never really found a convincing path through the fields to the limestone Knainsley Quarry and once we were in its extensive area compass work was needed to get out. We emerged onto a lane bounded by expensive property conversions, lots of Range Rovers – that sort of place.

The next stile was impossible to negotiate, guarded by brambles and sloes, [reported to the authorities] but fortunately a gate took us into the same field to link up with a path that kept coming to more awkward overgrown stiles, but we slowly made progress to emerge probably on the wrong drive way at Loud Carr Side. All along this stretch we had wonderful views of the Bowland Fells to the north. Their road led us to Gibbon Bridge over the Loud. A substantial stile gave access to the river bank  here populated with Himalayan Balsam and more worryingly Japanese Knotweed, The river is small and flows along at a snail’s pace. Pushing on through the vegetation we made progress down stream, despite acrobatic stiles, to the stepping-stones  across the river. A few days ago there would have been little water here after the drought but we have had a lot of rain since and our crossing was a little tricky as some of the stones were submerged. A gentler stretch through fields and we emerged at Loud Mythom Bridge. What are these  iridescent beetles ‘feeding’ on dock leaves?  We walked on to Doeford Bridge where the Loud joins the much wider Hodder. A fisherman was casting in the Hodder below, a popular fishing river. We ate lunch at the bridge and watched many cyclists coming through from  the Trough of Bowland, and also speeding motorists having close shaves on the bends.

The Loud joining the Hodder just above Doeford Bridge.

We had considered continuing across the stepping-stones at  Stakes Farm but walkers coming in the opposite direction confirmed that they were impossible with missing stones and high water which is a regular problem. So we backtracked up the lane and onto a track heading for Greenlands, as we walked through the farmyard a, fortunately chained, dog leapt out of its kennel narrowly missing JD. That raised our heart rates.  More poor tracks and awkward stiles eventually brought us back to Gibbon Bridge. Cars were arriving for a wedding reception at the hotel. We didn’t have the heart to find the footpath through their grounds and spent the next half-hour or so lost in the fields which host the annual Chipping Steam Fair every May. Today turned out to be the Chipping Show held in fields on the edge of the village and we could hear loudspeaker announcements in the distance. The day was perfect for the show. From this side of the Loud we now had uninterrupted views south to Longridge Fell. A complicated series of fields, all thankfully well signed, took us from Pale Farm to the road and back over the Loud Lower Bridge to our car. We had achieved our idea of following the Loud but had found the walking difficult, in my condition, with overgrown paths and broken or blocked stiles.

*****

DEEP IN CHIPPING VALE.

One of the tags for my blog is ‘Chipping Vale’  and its used quite often.   I’m often looking down into this valley as it lies between Longridge Fell and the Bowland Fells. I’m not sure whether this is an official designation or a figment of my imagination. There is no mention on the OS maps, basically I’m referring to the Loud River catchment area which arises in the hills near Beacon Fell and meanders under Chipping into the Hodder at Doeford Bridge. Well today we’ll explore into this valley.

Chipping Vale from Longridge Fell.

There are several  points of interest – historic houses, ancient bridleways and limestone quarries. I’ve a book about limestone kilns and quarries in the area which highlights Arbour Quarry at Thornley as a major commercial  site so I was keen to revisit it.

Since my trip up the NE coast of Scotland I’ve hit a problem – I suddenly overnight painfully stiffened up in my shoulders and thighs. After some prognostication I presented myself to my GP – Polymyalgia Rheumatica [PMR] was his initial diagnosis  but the blood tests were equivocal. Give it another week and nothing much has changed, painful stiffness and similar bloods. I’m limiting myself to gentle walks around the village later in the day when I’m less stiff.

To hell with it I’m going for a longer walk and phone JD for companion, he’s strong enough to carry me if things become difficult.

So our venture into Chipping Vale commences. Field tracks out of Longridge are taken past ponds, where my lads used to fish for tench, to Gill Bridge over the River Loud, more of a stream than a river, where they had tickled unsuccessfully for trout. Private roads through the Blackmoss Estate formerly Lord Derby’s domain took us past converted barns and gentrified houses as is the norm around here. Indistinct field paths which seemed little walked brought us into the farmyard of Hesketh End a grade one listed C17th house.  The sandstone house has lovely mullioned windows and is noted for latin inscriptions on the exterior telling of historic incidents.

Chipping Vale with Longridge Fell in the background.

Hesketh End.

A nearby  property was ruinous 20 years ago and is now a substantial dwelling. We came out onto the road close to the recently closed Dog and Partridge, many pubs are capitulating in rural surroundings. From here we crossed the River Loud by a wooden footbridge. The banks of the river were heavily overgrown with Himalayan Balsam, its scent pervading the area. The low-lying meadows here are frequently flooded in the winter months when our track would be under water. We were heading for the extensive Arbour quarry, a source of limestone into the early C 20th. Lime was important to the farmers for improving their land. All that remains now are grassed over ridges and ponds, the latter having a large duck population. Sitting on a limestone outcrop for lunch we were covered with little black flies which fortunately were of the nonbiting variety. We couldn’t identify them but they were similar to ones I called Thunder Flies, it was certainly very humid today. There was wild mint growing  everywhere giving a stong aroma and attracting Painted Lady butterflies. I had vague memories of a large limekiln somewhere here but we couldn’t find it today in all the summer growth. There is a photo in my book of it operational.

Crossing to the other side of the valley we climbed a lane to reach farms strung along the hillside of Longridge Fell on roughly the 150m contour. I’ve often speculated this may be the spring line. Paths and lanes connect these properties and is known to some locals as ‘The Posties Track’. Some of the houses are still honest working farms but more and more are renovated as desirable properties, I must admit they all have superb views over Chipping Vale towards the Bowland Fells. We reentered Longridge on the old railway line that ran along to stone quarries. The gentle walking was no problem but my stiffness made getting over the numerous stiles comical.

*****