Category Archives: Lancashire.

A SOUTHERN CIRCUIT ON LONGRIDGE FELL.


I’ve been up Longridge Fell three times this week, all from different directions. This lack of originality is partially based on my reluctance to drive far, partly on the weather [torrential rain on alternate days put boggy Fairsnape out of the question] and mainly on my slow re-acquaintance with hilly country. Anyhow it is a great little fell, the most southerly named fell in the UK with the easy to remember 350m height.

Today, Thursday 5th April, was fantastic, you couldn’t have wished for a better Spring like day. Blue skies, no wind and warmish sun [that’s that round yellow thing in the sky]. Of course the paths were still muddy and slippy but that’s par for the course at this time of year in Lancashire. A few groups were out on longer rambles and the dog strollers were making the best of the day.

I parked at Higher Hodder Bridge and  tackled the steep Birdy Brow road head on, One gains height quickly and just past Kemple End the forest track leaves the road zigzagging into the trees. I was already sweating as the morning warmed up. The forest track on a day like this reminded me of walking through Southern Spain on the GR 7 where there is much forest. I was going to say ‘wish I was there now’ but on a day like this you can’t  beat Lancashire. A hidden little path through the trees brings one out at a lovely open viewpoint with the Bowland Fells full on, the frosty Yorkshire peaks off to the East and Chipping Vale at your feet,

Higher on the fell I came across forest workers hand planting thousands of spruce saplings in rough ground that had been felled a couple of years ago. These are disease resistant ones and I will watch their growth over coming years.

Knowing that the track was blocked ahead with fallen trees I again took to smaller paths through the trees some of which are old Scots Pines, an enchanting place. I’ve been known to bivy in this secret place with the bonus of deer wandering past in the night. Further on is the ‘wall path’ leading towards the summit.  Years ago this path was hardly visible but has become more used and hence more boggy, most of the wall that ran alongside it has been now used as infill for the path.

Once out in the open the white trig point was clearly seen ahead with more stunning views of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills. If I had kept walking down the ridge I would have been home in an hour but I had a circuit to complete so headed south on forest roads, with Pendle Hill dominant ahead above the Ribble Valley, to come out at the road above Crowshaw Quarry where I had a bite to eat in the sunshine.

The bridle way down past Green Gore to Hurst Green is very familiar but I realised I nearly always walk it in the opposite direction. One of my favourite places is Dean Brook as it descends off the fell and through old mill placements at Hurst Green. The bridge there is a great launching pad for poo sticks.

I came out at the Almshouses which somehow were brought down from Kemple End. The Bayley Arms pub seems to be closed so I carried straight across on Smithy Lane through muddy fields and into the grounds of Stoneyhurst College.

I took the private road to Hodder Court where I picked up the popular footpath alongside the Hodder river. This is a roller coaster of a path in the trees above the river as I headed back to  Higher Hodder Bridge. A delight with the fast flowing Hodder below, emerging Wild Garlic under my feet and expectant bird song in the air.

That was 5 hours of my life well spent.

*****

 

What is happening up on Longridge Fell?

Another of my ‘whats happening?’ posts.

The day had not started well,  I’d set my alarm early, for me, so I’d get to my eagerly awaited dental appointment at 9am. I awoke feeling strange. Putting my hand out to the radio nothing happened. Pressing the light switch nothing happened. Checking my mobile twice or even thrice the time said 9.30.  9.30 where was I?  It dawned on me in the middle of an electricity cut. Not even my land line worked.  Reconnected later in the morning apologies to the dentist were due. I didn’t come round till lunchtime. By then my phone was ringing, the sun was shining and I’d arranged a walk up Longridge Fell.

Mike was recovering from a hip operation and I was keen to try my legs on rougher terrain. Mid afternoon we were parked up on the rough ground above Crowshaw Quarry.  I won’t bore you with our usual route on the forest tracks to the trig point and back.

A few things were different today…

Access onto the open fell from the forest was always by a through stile in the wall just below the trig point. Somebody, presumably, Lancashire County Council, has become disheartened by damage to the said wall and installed a metal kissing gate. Not really in keeping with a fell top but maybe more enduring.

It was wet on the way to the trig point. But we were soon at the top and greeted by a young Patterdale Terrier full of energy and inquisitiveness.

A little further on was the wooden gate which has breached the wall for years but suddenly seems to have been chewed to bits. The type of chewing seen round horse enclosures. No horses up here so we wondered deer, wild boar, beavers, yeti…  We walked on keeping a close eye behind us on the woods.

Arriving, without being chewed or worse, onto the forest road below we couldn’t believe the amount of damage from the storm a month ago. Our onward route at one point was completely obstructed by fallen trees.  I’d seen the same on Beacon Fell  a couple of weeks ago but for some reason hadn’t expected it here. Some of the trees were leaning ominously across the track but most had been completely uprooted or snapped. It will take some time with a chain saw to clear things. A way round was found.

A little further on and what is happening here …

 

We had walked through sun, rain and sleet, the road and car reached.

Nothing stays the same.

Some deep unconscious spark made me think of…

 

*****

What is happening up on Beacon Fell ?

Quite a lot.

I’m busy today but need a bit of exercise whilst the sun is shining. Beacon Fell is an obvious local choice so I skip lunch and drive up. I park in the free eastern quarry. There are a few dog walkers around the pond. I feel a little disorientated at a path junction where I expected to see the ‘Black Tiger’ sculpture, is it being repaired? Anyhow onwards past lots of storm damaged trees. I check out the ‘The Walking Snake’, I’d heard it was rotting and found there was little left. The same with the nearby ‘Upside Down Bird’, only part intact. Nothing lasts for ever.

Remains of the Snake.

Slowly rotting Upside Down Bird.

 

I went into the cafe/info centre and asked the delightful volunteer lady what was happening to the sculptures. “Never mind the sculptures have you seen what has happened to the trees?”   I mentioned a few storm damaged seen as I had walked over. “The whole forest was devastated in the arctic storm we had a couple of weeks ago”  Yes it was a wild few days I replied, were you up here then?  “No I was in Lanzarote”  That was another story.  Apparently the tall trees experienced a ferocious wind from the east, not the usual, and with the thin soil hundreds were blown down or literally snapped. There has been a large cleaning up process to safely open up the pathways.There will be an even bigger replanting exercise.   Click to read…

Getting back to the sculptures she told me the Black Tiger had been stolen!!!

The others were rotting and may be replaced, funds permitting. The head of the snake was languishing in the display room. Apparently the new fad of embedding copper coins into wooden structures hastens their demise. So new sculptures will be higher out of reach of vandals, though not necessarily thieves. She mentioned some new installations for me to find, and off I went.

I took the long circuit round to the west and eventually arrived at the ‘Crocodile’ which may be a lizard and found that the tail has gone so perhaps the coins are causing damage. Back up to the dew pond to admire the new Kingfisher beautifully carved to show the grain of the wood. Nearby I found a Frog.

I next went up to the summit for views of the Bowland Fells and Morecambe Bay. Just below the summit is an Owl carving that I’m not particularly fond of, too sterile and more like plastic than wood. There were lots of children on a school educational trip nearby and when I took out my camera general panic ensued with the teachers ordering the children out of the way. I felt embarrassed that I had unwittingly flouted their child protection procedures. I took a quick picture of the average owl and slunk off into the trees feeling chastised and wondering what is happening to our world.

Not a child in sight.

I couldn’t find any other new installations so it gave me an excuse to return to the information desk for more precise directions. The Woodpecker and the Dragon Fly were up in trees so I hadn’t been observant enough.

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet”.  An appropriate quote from Stephen Hawking who passed away on 14th March, 2018.

With that in mind I soon found the Woodpecker and the Dragonfly.

Walking back to the carpark I was amazed at the damage inflicted by those arctic winds. Could have done with some of those trees for my wood burner.

It was encouraging today to see the number of school children out and about exercising and learning something about our glorious countryside. I don’t particularly want to sour this post with grumbles about litter but there was lots of evidence that those children, here on environmental learning courses, had not learnt about taking their litter home.  Teach them about this as well as the geology and trees. I came back to the car with pockets full of rubbish.

 

 

MY ANNUAL SERVICE AND MOT.

“Your car will be ready about 4pm, we’ll phone you”

I’m in one of the outlets on the vast ‘motor village’ out by the docks in Preston where one can buy just about any make of vehicle. It was just after 9am in the garage reception area, more like a lawyers office than a garage but the mechanics must be hiding somewhere. Last year I took the opportunity to cycle round the Preston Guild Wheel but I’m limited to easy walking at the moment. The day was perfect, blue skies and winter sun.  I had to make the most of it so I planned on walking a 7 mile stretch of the Guild Wheel, its NW segment. But first a free coffee and a read of the paper – I had a lot of time to fill.

I knew from past experience that I wouldn’t enjoy the first noisy mile alongside the main road but as soon as this was crossed and left behind peace and tranquility returned. One’s mind becomes clearer and the rural calm helps with those nagging problems. The sun always helps.

I found myself on the Ribble Link which gives access at long last from the Lancaster Canal to the rest of the network once across The River Ribble. On a whim I decided to follow it towards the river but after a short distance and a couple of locks the the ‘path’ was too boggy for my trainers. As it is a new structure, 2002, there was no need for a traditional towpath. This link is basically Savick Brook which has been widened and equipped with locks to make it navigable. At a nearby bridge I watched some regular dredging going on and was able to chat about the Link with the Canal Trust workers. I have never seen a boat on this length before and wondered about its usefulness but they assured me 300 boats passed through last year.

Through the UCLAN sports grounds and  alongside housing at Cottam on maturing paths, dog walkers, pram-pushers, runners and cyclists all sharing and happy in the sunshine.

Soon one wanders into new developments appearing everywhere in north Preston like the pox. Their names are fanciful. They never come up with Muddy Meadows, Crowded Copse, Restricted View, Non-environmental Nook, Flooding Fields, Ruined Manor…

Broughton village however has recovered its relative tranquility since the long awaited by-pass has opened. The road is barely recognisable. Where’s the traffic queue? Probably somewhere else but they deserve a bit of peace for awhile.In a slower mode I noticed for the first time a stone ‘pinfold’ [where stray animals were held until collected] by the path and also a war memorial.

I walked on crossing the new road, named in honour of a local man awarded the Victoria Cross in the WW1. I was eager to see what has become of the cycle route along Durton Lane since the road works, again it is a changed world. There is no longer any through traffic but engulfing housing will eventually destroy its character.

A couple of snippets from this area …

The sign says No fly tipping.

Wouldn’t like to learn to swim here,

I let my phone guide me through the residential streets near the hospital and then on familiar ground down Plungington Road to enjoy a late lunch in my favourite south Indian cafe, RK Sweets. Vegetable thali for £5.

Rather than catch a bus just yet I wanted to put more miles into the lovely day so on I walked through the University area and past the international cafes of Friargate. What an opportunity to look at the newly refurbished market hall which though not yet fully running could give some life back into Preston city centre. I don’t come into town very often and I ended up in Wilkinson’s Camera shop spending money on an impulsive purchase of a replacement compact. Nearby was the bus station which is also being refurbished as part of Preston’s improvements.  The crowded bus dropped me a mile short of the garage so in the end I’d walked about 13 miles by the allotted 4pm

“Everything is OK and you’ve passed the MOT”     So all’s well.

 

A NOTHING DAY ON LONGRIDGE FELL.

The weather was ‘nothing’ this morning, from my house I could see a mist hanging over Longridge Fell. The exciting curling match on TV, GB v Italy, had me enthralled and delayed any outdoor activity.  As an aside a curling ice rink is being constructed up the A6, there aren’t many around and the Winter Olympics coverage should give it a boost when it opens. I hazard a guess that they had scheduled its opening to coincide better with the Olympics.

A late decision was made to get out and walk the roads at the western end of Longridge Fell. A dry circuit on tarmac but with some steeper sections than I been willing to do recently. I didn’t expect any views but wanted to build on my recovery strategy and put my hip ligaments to the test. They have been improving with recent flat walking and my resistance-band side stepping exercises. To that end I completed the circuit quite quickly and was pleased with the 700 ft height ascended. Job done.

The road goes up past the Golf Course where a little activity was taking place – the wall running alongside the road took my attention for awhile as I admired the shades of green – the road itself has suffered this winter and like most others in the area will not be repaired quickly.

The busy New Drop inn is at the cross roads, the walls of this inn carry a white cross insignia and history records it was previously known as the White Cross Inn. Why the change and I wonder what the cross signified? The road I’ve travelled is the old road to Clitheroe over Longridge Fell which avoiding the valley bottoms. Turning left I follow a straight road which I always thought was part of the Ribchester Roman Road over Longridge Fell heading for the Salter Fell road and on to Carlisle but a dotted line on the map  suggests the Roman Road was to the west of the modern road.

There was only a vague view of Beacon Fell from Jeffrey Hill where the Roman Road changed direction. More nothingness.

On the return leg back to Longridge I couldn’t resist a look into Cardwell Quarry. Climbing here was banned by the landowner a few years ago and he has refused to be persuaded otherwise. I was surprised that the rock was not completely covered in vegetation due to lack of use. The outlook from here on a summer’s evening made a visit worthwhile – maybe someday.

Down past the golf course once again and today’s modest road circuit was completed. That constitutes a ‘nothing’ day in my eyes.

***

 Did you know the Americans celebrate an annual  National Nothing Day on January 16th, [I had my timing wrong].  Monty Python characteristically  took the idea further with their Adventures of Ralph Mellish – nothing happened …..

 

A BLEASDALE BABBLE.

The streams coming off the Bowland Fells were babbling, full of water, and we babbled, full of air, as we strolled round the tracks. The walk passed by pleasantly with all the chat and we occasionally glanced at the hills which a few days before had been plastered with snow but were now in Springlike condition.

I persuaded JD, of Canary Islands GR131 fame, to accompany me, he was hankering for the open fells – give me another week or so. When I phoned him early morning, a perfect bright sunny and dry one, he had just returned from a morning gym session so I was doubly grateful for his company.

I have described in greater detail variations of this walk several times before. Usually done in the winter when it provides a fairly solid surface to walk on, particularly important in this season’s exceptional wetness. The farmer we met on his quad bike described it as the wettest he had experienced, we could only take his word for that.

At the start a few parapenters were soaring above Parlick and a little further we spotted four buzzards doing there own soaring on the distance.

We walked right round the base of the fells  Parlick, Fairsnape, Holme House and Hazelhurst past farmhouses where hill sheep farming has changed little over the years, then on through the Bleasdale Tower estate to emerge onto the road leading to Oakenclough. There were hazy views over the Fylde from up here, a good place for a spot of lunch in the sunshine. Whilst I chewed on my banana JD tried to figure out how to open his tin of tuna which turned out not to have a ring pull – ah well he is on a diet.

Road walking took us past Tootle Hall which I remember was once a homely farm cafe serving chicken in the basket with chips, ham and eggs or a substantial afternoon tea. In the area in those days several farmers’  wives supplemented their incomes with meals in the family dining room. [There is one remaining in Ford Lane, Goosnargh – The Cottage. Go there soon if you wish to recreate eating out in the 60s and 70s. Its all gastro pubs now.]

Walking on past that wonderful beech hedge and we were back at the car within 3hours. A perfect babble and one I will no doubt repeat many time in future winters.

                                                              *****

BLUE PLAQUES IN LONGRIDGE.

 

How to make the best of a sunny afternoon whilst I’m not able to climb the fells?

I have had in mind for some time a walk around my home town of Longridge visiting the buildings bestowed with a blue plaque. A quick piece of research of Longridge Heritage Committee information told me they had placed 15 in total – so off I went, camera in hand.

I intend to let the plaques give you the history whilst they are legible …

No 1. CRAMPOAKS MILL.

At the bottom of the main street, Berry Lane, is Booths Supermarket. From the front it could be any retail outlet but viewed from the side the telltale ‘saw tooth’ north-facing roof lights marks it out as an old mill, there were many such cotton mills in Longridge, spinning and weaving.           

No 2. Youth centre.

Across the road on the corner is an undistinguished building housing a community and youth centre with several notable past uses including the Bond Minicar developed in town.

 

No 3. The Towneley Arms.

A popular local pub situated next to the old station. An adjacent level crossing was used on Berry Lane where the line crossed to sidings for the mills and on its way up to the quarries.

No 4. The Old Station.

The station has been sympathetically restored as a Heritage Facility and a popular central cafe utilising the platform space as well as the station building. There is always a wealth of local information available in the heritage centre. Searches on the internet will soon provide more history on the Preston – Longridge railway and its unique branch to Whittingham Hospital which in its heyday was one of the largest Mental Institutions in Europe.

No 5. The Co-operative Building.

On the next block up is another imposing stone building previously holding our co-op. When I first arrived in town I would shop in the various departments of the large store. The plaque mentions the ballroom upstairs but I mainly remember the Polash Indian Restaurant up the stairs when the space had been divided – good old Ronnie was an excellent chef and I still have contact with his family in Burnley. The present co-op store has moved to a new building next door and the lower floor shops are now charity and betting – a sign of the times. The rest of the building is however used as semi affordable flats. Shame they didn’t restore the clock which is visible from most of the lane.

 

No 6.  Methodist Church.

This Wesleyan Methodist Chapel is now in private ownership having been sold off and the congregation incorporated into the United Reform Church down the road – now the thriving Christ Church. Needs must. I have never been inside it.

No 7. The Stone Quarries.

I hit a problem here – I couldn’t find the blue plaque! I presumed it was by the tunnel linking the railway to the quarries. In the past the railway line continued from the town centre through what is now John Smith’s Park and connected with a horse drawn incline up into the extensive quarries, Tootle Heights, producing high quality stone for many construction projects in the NW. Liverpool and Preston docks and many public buildings in Preston. The raison d’ètre of the line.

Tootle Heights Quarry in its heyday.

No 8. The Quarryman’s Arms,

Just below the quarries is this old pub building – now my favourite Thai restaurant.

No 9.  Club Row.

Walking back down Higher Road you come to a row of cottages on the left. They have an interesting history.

No 10. Cinema.

Unfortunately the cinema is under scaffolding at present, undergoing refurbishment with new owners who hope to continue operating it as private cinema. It has been a unique experience with ice cream usherettes, tea and coffee in mugs and the National Anthem, lets hope it continues to be.

Its noticeable how many properties in the old parts of town were previously involved with  hand-looming.

No 11.  Fell End.

Continuing down the hill there is an old building, now a funeral parlour, on the corner bearing the plaque. The Duke William pub opposite is now private housing.

No 12. St. Lawrence’s Church.

Opposite across the main road is the parish church in a prominent position approaching the town.

No 13. New Town.

Round the corner on the busy Preston Road is an area known as New Town which is now a conservation area. The water pump has been restored. As a bonus here we get a Red plaque.

As it was…

No 14.  Stone Bridge.

The busy roundabout at the end of Preston Rd is built on Stone Bridge where the railway entered town. Not the most salubrious environment – don’t hang around.

No 15.  St. Wilfred’s Church.

The prominent church further along Derby Rd is Roman Catholic, an important religion in the town.

 

 

So a walk of about 3 miles has included all the plaques but there are so many more interesting stone buildings in town that I feel I could produce another circuit.