The gardening can wait. It’s hot and stuffy and my hay fever is irritating. Time to escape to higher ground not to far away. A quick lunch and I’m parked on Jeffrey Hill. It’s not rained for days and the ground is looking parched. What is usually a boggy path is now bone dry and trainers are all I need. There is a welcome breeze, and I’m soon ‘walking on sunshine’ with the familiar panoramic Bowland Fells stretching out above the vale of Chipping. Newly cut meadows adding to the patchwork. Yorkshire’s three peaks are in the far haze.
All very idyllic you will think, but I also choose to do a litter pick at the same time. I thought there was less rubbish than usual on the path to start with, but by the time I’d completed my 3-mile circuit my sac was full. Dog poo bags, tissues, empty water bottles, cans and strangely a pair of underpants. I declare the fell litter free – but for how long?
As an afterthought on the way home I called into our local bouldering Craig Y Longridge to check out any litter there. I’m pleased to say there were only a couple of bottles to remove and these had probably been thrown from the road above. Well done climbers for looking after their own environment. By now the crag was in the shade and I enjoyed a bit of exercise on some of the easier problems.
This piece of optimism is presumably based on the weather in NW Britain, where early-morning rain could mean it has been raining all night. The front producing it may then blow through giving way to fine weather later in the day, though not necessarily by eleven. It had certainly been raining most of the night when I awoke this morning at six, and it still was at nine. A couple of coffees, a poached egg and the crossword later I wondered about getting out. I wasn’t in a rush, just going local, so let’s give it to twelve to be certain.
My previous foolproof method of forecasting the day involved looking out of my bedroom window. If I couldn’t see Longridge Fell it was raining, if I could see the fell it was going to rain. Such is life up here. But now Barratt’s have built some ghastly houses in front of me, so I can’t see the fell at all. What does that say about the weather?
Parked up at Jeffrey Hill to do my usual short round on this end of Longridge Fell. Why not incorporate a litter pick whilst I’m at it, haven’t done one for a few weeks and after Easter I expect a good collection. The clouds over Bowland still suggest rain but is that some brightness behind me coming in from the coast on the strong winds? We can but hope, and anyway I’m fully waterproofed.
Rain in the Trough of Bowland.
Behind me brightening across the Fylde?
To my surprise, or should that be pleasure, there is very little litter heading up to the trig point. I suspect someone else is helping out. Apart from the phantom orange peeler all I find is the usual d** p** b**s, no surprise there. It is also no surprise to see, in the distance I’m afraid, a couple walking with their dogs off the lead. There are signs everywhere suggesting this is not a good idea due to ground nesting birds at this time of year. Tell me if I am becoming pedantic.
I splash on through the bogs, we have had a lot of rain, to the trig point, Bowland remains gloomy. The wind is behind me but still has a cold bite to it. Families coming the other way are frozen, and the children look miserable. They have the time to thank me for my litter efforts. Whenever I meet people whilst I’m in litter clearing mode, a conspicuous bag and a grabber, they all say they should do the same – if only 5% did that would be a success.
Approaching the edge of the woods I’m surrounded by a dozen barking dogs. All loose and followed not that closely behind by a couple of ‘professional’ dog walkers. I stand my ground, I’m getting more confident with the canine species these days – there are so many of them. Pleasantries over I suggest that on the fell the dogs should be on lead. Of course their guardians have come from a different direction and claim there were no warning notices. We walk along together, and I explain about ground nesting birds – lapwings, curlews, skylarks, grouse, plovers etc in this area. The dogs are a delight to watch as they know their way and jockey for front position. A diverse selection of breeds all getting on together. I begin to wonder that as they are staying on this side of the wall and not transgressing onto the open fell I may have been a little harsh on their human friends. Dog walking has become big business these days as people who bought dogs for companionship now need to go back to work. We part company as they go off down the forest track. Out of interest later in the day I drive round to their point of access onto the fell and there are no signs warning of ground nesting birds. Fair enough.
I’m soon back on the road and the weather, as prophesised, is improving so I incorporate a loop around Cowling Brook Plantation. I had noticed some litter starting to appear in this woodland of late. There wasn’t much to be honest but my d** p** b**s total now was above a dozen. I enjoy my ventures into this plantation and feel the need to preserve it. There is so much unidentified bird song in the trees today. It would be good to come here with a proper birder and learn to recognise the calls. Any offers?
The little Cowling Brook coming down from Gannow Fell is in full lively flow heading to Knowle Green where it used to power the bobbin and cotton mills.
On the short stretch up the road into the strong wind the carrier bag was getting heavier, and I was in danger of repetitive strain injury from the trigger on my grabber.
The sun was shining once back at the car and indeed we have just had an almost good red sunset. Red Sky at night Shepherd’s delight, another ancient folk law. A red sky sunset tells us the worst of the weather has now eased, with higher pressure and improving weather approaching from the west for the following day. Red skies appearing when dust and small particles are trapped in the atmosphere by the important high pressure.
I have a few ideas for some hilly walks now the weather has improved, but they would involve travelling on the busy Easter roads, so I manage to procrastinate the morning away. Let’s just stay local and have a wander up Longridge Fell checking out a few bird habitats at the same time. I’m keen to see the Great Crested Grebes performing their mating dance on the little reservoir at the top of the village. This is where I park my car. Craig Y Longridge is busy with climbers.
As I’m putting my boots on along come JD and his friend Danny. In a couple of weeks they are off to do a pilgrimage walk through Portugal to Santiago de Compostella and are out for a brisk training walk. May I join you I ask? Yes as long as you can keep up with us. All very friendly. They set off at speed up the road, my ‘un’fitness showing. I let them do the talking whilst I try to get my breath back. Fortunately there is soon a rest break whilst they remove clothing layers, the day is hotting up along with their pace. They stuff their clothes onto rucksacks which they are carrying for training purposes.
Now into rhythm I begin to enjoy the walk as we climb up onto Longridge Fell, my original destination. There are daffodils and primroses along the verge and bird song in the air. Young lambs play in the fields. Aren’t we lucky to have this on our doorstep?
Instead of following their intended route up the lane to the kennels I take them off on a track through the fields, past the little reservoir, on by the long abandoned quarries and just below the expensive farm conversion to meet up with the lane leading to the plantations. They claim they had never been that way before, but I doubt their memories. They stop on the ridge for a drink, I suck on an orange. Then along the balcony path above Chipping Vale to the crowded parking on Jeffrey. The first people we had met all afternoon.
We have a quick look into Cardwell Quarry where JD and I used to climb years ago as I had seen a barn owl there the other day. We see a couple of small falcons fly out – ?merlins. In the corner I spot the barn owl, get a hurried long shot (photographically I hasten to add) before it sees us and flies out – what a wonderful bird. Now I know where it roosts I creep in another day and try and get some better images. JD is surprised to see the amount of significant rock fall that has occurred over the years. Quarries are inherently unstable, one just hopes that you are not hanging on when the rock decides to part company. Anyway climbing is banned here ever since some unruly and aggressive behaviour towards the farmer from some youths partying in there. I only hope they weren’t climbers, not that it makes any difference to the ban.
It’s all downhill on the road back to Longridge past the golf course. As part of their training they feel obliged to call in for a drink. We sit on the sunny balcony enjoying a beer whilst the golfers go over their good and bad shots of the day. All very pleasant. Resisting the temptation to stay longer we are soon back into town. I had had my walk up the fell in slightly different circumstances to those envisaged and thoroughly enjoyed the banter. It has turned out averyGood Friday after all. I’m envious of their upcoming peregrination.
This week I have been alternating short walks and flat cycle rides with nothing of note to report. Everything came to a standstill yesterday with the collision of cold winds from the north with a front from the south. Amber warning. My son cancelled a lunchtime visit from Manchester and I watched the snowflakes falling in the afternoon. During the night things must have turned nasty as today I woke to a couple of inches of snow. (The radio told of far worse conditions in the Pennines) It was interesting to try and identify the tracks across my back garden, one doesn’t know what transpires in the night. Something I should resolve either with sitting up into the wee hours or more likely installing a motion detecting camera.
By mid-morning the sun had appeared and traffic started using my road. Time to get out and about. The tossed coin said walk. So I did. A brand-new pair of lightweight boots had arrived in the post. Helly Hansen and looking perfect for summer walking – right let’s try them out in some snow. Living in Longridge I am lucky to be able to walk from my doorstep into the open countryside or as I did today up onto the fell. The route on roads was one of my regular runs way back then. I knew it would give me good Bowland views with the minimum of hassle.
Once out of the village ‘Forty Acre Lane’ gave me those promised views. I’m not sure which side the ‘forty acres’ are on but never mind the vista across Chipping Vale to the hills is uplifting. The snow on the south slopes was visibly melting as I walked but showed up the features of the Parlick, Fairsnape and Totridge Fells in great detail. Virtually no cars passed me, the road was just thawing enough for them. There were still drifts in the gateways. The golf course was closed, perhaps prematurely as the afternoon was perfect.
The usual crowd of cars was parked up at Jeffrey Hill. From up here the northern slopes of Pendle Hill were plastered with snow – they usually have it worse in East Lancashire. I was in two minds to take to the fells with the rest of them and visit Spire Hill, instead keeping to the road but no sooner had I decided this I was tempted off into Cowley Brook Plantation. My favourite getaway place. It was a joy to tread virgin snow through the trees. Silence was everywhere except for those little birds singing unseen.
Back out on the lower road I trudged back along the switchbacks to Longridge as the temperature started to fall again. The roadside gorse was a brilliant yellow.
How good that sunshine must have done for my endomorphins.
Trying to spread my diminishing physical ‘talents’ around – walking, cycling and climbing. today after a miserable week of wheeziness and coughing I made the effort to drive up to Craig Y Longridge not that it is very far. Would it be a step too far? Possibly.
I’ve been coming here for years, far too many. I’m probably four times the age of the young dudes who come from afar to test their strength and skills on one of England’s premier bouldering venues. This strenuous training crag (more correctly a quarry) is fortunately on my doorstep. Every spring I am determined to get strong again.
I’m surprised by the number of people here today, but it is dry with a glimpse of the sun and temperatures nudging above 6 degrees. We all climb in hope. The colourful crowd is mainly one group from Lancaster. All a friendly lot. Whilst they hurl themselves at desperate overhanging problems I slouch off to the easier far end where I can play around on some familiar traverses. I’m only feeling my way back to fitness but as I climb that old buzz kicks in, and I start to enjoy myself and pull off some smart moves. But not for long – the strength soon runs out. Still, there is time to chat with the others, passing the time of day and reflecting on past days and crags. They tolerate my reminisces, I only hope time will be memorable for them too.
“I was actually in Cowley Brook woodland that is on the fell road below Geoffrey Hill. As I entered through the small pedestrian gate I could hear and then see a small flock of common crossbills high up the Scots pine” Grimsargh Wildlife Forum. 21 February at 15.22.
Having read that this morning and not having seen a Crosshill for years I was parked up by the plantation after lunch. I entered through the same small gate and wandered into the pines. I could hear what I thought were Crossbills somewhere in the depths…
…but I could not see them. I wandered up and down the plantation just above the brook, stopped and listened, scanned with my binoculars – but not a sighting. I completed a loop around the plantation, still hearing them in places, I concluded that I’m not very good at bird spotting, swallowed my pride and disappointedly headed back.
As I was walking around I was disappointed to see that it has been necessary for United Utilities to display on several trees notices reminding dog owners to remove their dog’s mess. That is despite large notices at the entrance gate advising on sensible conduct. It struck me that if they, the dog owners, don’t heed this then the additional signs will have little effect. What a shame that this little wild life area is suffering from urban park mentality and that the ‘wildness’ is being polluted, in my opinion, by additional signage.
Back at the gate I had my third disappointment- a great pile of rubbish, overwhelmingly dog poo bags. Perhaps these had been collected by someone, but why not bag them and remove them from the site. On the gate are some bin liners for people to deposit their poo bags (Why not take them home in the first place?) and maybe one of these had burst or been damaged by animals – there are deer, foxes and crows about. Whatever, it is a right mess for someone to clear up – presumably United Utilities. I don’t know how frequently the warden visits. All very unsatisfactory.
I may return tomorrow on my quest to spot a Crossbill, but by then they could be anywhere in the forests on Longridge Fell.
I may have used this title for a post in the past. Whilst fellow bloggers are exploring Manchester, White Nancy, Covid and Wildlife crimes I’m content with a walk around my local lanes. After my drubbing, is that a word, the other day on the Guild Wheel cycle route contentment is the prime objective. I live on the edge of the countryside, but only just with all the new developments, so for many walks I don’t need my car – just set off from the front door.
The road out of the village past the cricket ground is far busier than I ever remember it, a speedway to Chipping. That is why for my cycling these days I prefer the off-road routes. Anyhow, I’m walking today. Storm Otto blew itself out here in the morning and now the sun is shining. As I was saying the road is busy and after a stretch where the footpath ends I resort to evasive action crossing and recrossing to have a straight view of the traffic and hopefully them me. All along are views of the Bowland Hills tempting me to the north. Past that archetypal country inn.
Is that a Kestrel in the tree?
I survive to where I turn up a side lane heading for Longridge Fell. Those white railings, sited on corners for better through visibility, are slowly disappearing – a rural crime.
I stop to talk to a farmer about the winters we never have these days. (tempting fate I know). Along comes a car which stops to reveal a dog walking friend fresh off the fell and heading for a nearby farm café, a good catch up ensures. I’m then admiring the hedge layering skills along the way and am lucky enough to come across the skilled labourer himself. A chain saw now makes the labour easier, but he has to be careful with the final close cut. A bill hook finishes off the branch severing, leaving a slender life giving, bent over, horizontal, stem for further growth. The whole process is to keep the hawthorn hedge thick at the base and stock proof in the future. He seems happy in his work and as he says ” jobs a goodun”
There is a steep hill ahead of me but I have no problem which is reassuring after my last outing mentioned above. (my Covid test was negative by the way) On the way up my mind wanders to future projects – Simon Armitage’s Stanza Stones, finishing off my Cicerone series, getting back on the rock, visiting friends afar not seen since before the lockdown and dare I hope getting back to the Canary Islands. Dreams. Inshallah.
I scan the reservoir for grebes, but the water is too rough today, I’m hoping to catch them in their courting display this year after last year being entertained by the chicks being carried on their mother’s back.
Down through the housing estates and I call in at JD’s for a welcome coffee and plans. A ghostly barn owl quarters across the remaining fields in front of his house. He alerts me to this signage along the road which I had not noticed before – see me after school.
Ignoring the title of my last post I’m up here again, doing it the easy way from Cardwell House , on Jeffrey Hill. And definitely staying out of the trees this time.
All part of my irregular three-mile litter picking circuit. I have been a bit lax recently and not kept up to my original monthly round. But no matter, the plethora of the Covid lock-down years has passed. There is room to park, though there are few takers this misty damp afternoon. There are always good pickings in the first hundred yards or so. I ignore the underpants in the car park and concentrate on the dog poo bags, a record today of 13, 10 of them full. The only person I meet is a dog walker, hopefully a responsible one as I bite my tongue and don’t grumble about the mess. By the way green doggy bags are no more environmentally friendlier than black ones – take them home, please. Rant over.
I keep to my plan – up to the summit, good pickings here as usual, cross over and come back down alongside the wall to the road. Cola cans outnumber Lucozade, for a change. The odd glove or hat, a helium balloon, Cadbury’s chocolate the favourite. One glass beer bottle.
I hope that if the fell looks clean people will be less inclined to drop their rubbish. Is there any evidence for this? This is my bit of fell after all, not that I want you to think I’m over obsessive about its cleanliness. (can you be over obsessive?) Once on the short stretch of road there is more to contend with. Some I will leave for the ‘council’ to deal with. Was it part of an organised litter pickup to be collected later or more likely a deliberate drive out and dump mentality? I’d better just stick to the fell.
By the time I was back at the car my bag was overflowing and feeling decidedly heavy. Job done.
“What do you think of it so far?” was one of Eric Morecambe’s catchphrases – and the reply from somewhere offstage – RUBBISH.
Up on Longridge Fell we were doing OK until the guide, walk no 23 of Mark Sutcliffe’s book, said to take a jink right in the trees. We already had jinked right awhile back as the fallen trees from last year’s storm Eunice?, blocked our tracks. But others had come this way recently, in fact quite a path had developed. We bushwhacked on. For once, I wasn’t the leader, Phreerunner was running but not as phree as he thought.
When Martin (aka Phreerunner) had included in his Friday walks Longridge Fell I couldn’t refuse to accompany him. I secretly knew the problems ahead but didn’t want to spoil the fun, it’s not Cicerones fault. I thought it a good idea to bring JD into the mix for some local support.
We had left Hurst Green alongside the delightful Dean Brook with its bobbin making history. The stream bed was carved by the water into Daliesque shapes. Resisting the urge to take another photo of Greengore we move on and across fields I don’t usually travel. Lanes and then a boggy path brought us out onto the top ridge where a simple stroll led to the summit trig point, 350 m. The light on the Bowland Hills was flitting from one area to another, but the three peaks never put in a show. Time for coffee and snacks.
Shireburn Alms Houses.
The onward path disappears into a dark plantation, and already we start meeting obstructions. When I was up here early last year I found it impossible to make safe progress. It was slightly better today as Martin forged forward bent double to avoid the branches. We made it through to more open ground and then found with the use of our phones a path going in the right direction. It is fairly chaotic up here at present, a shame that the forestry workers can’t spare a day with a couple of chain saws to clear a way.
As we left Hurst Green earlier this morning we passed the Shireburn Alms Houses and I related as to how they were originally built higher up on the fell in the earlyC18th and subsequently moved stone by stone down into the village around 1946. Well now we were above their original site on the fell next to the ‘blue lagoon’ reservoir. It wasn’t blue today in the rather dull conditions. The foundations can still be seen if one looks around, we didn’t.
Across the road, over a wall and down some fields, the directions lacked clarity here. We ended up in someone’s garden with a couple of wild eyed dogs snapping at our heels. We escaped and found our way down a ravine, the correct stile now visible behind us. It always amazes me, and I’ve said it too many times, that landowners don’t put signage up through their property and maintain the stiles – it’s not asking too much. If you buy a country property you will be well aware of any rights of way coming through it. Time to start issuing fines, I know that will never happen.
We skirted around Stoneyhurst School, admiring the architecture and the long stately drive. I think this was all new for Martin, and I shall be interested in his write-up for the walk on his blog. Soup and rolls back at Chez BC completed an excellent ‘Friday Walk’ May meet up again when he moves his troops to Silverdale in a couple of weeks time, or should I make the effort and travel down to Cheshire for somewhere new?
I didn’t take many photos, it was all too familiar, or so I thought, and we were busy chatting. There is a better report here.
I came across this temporary CCTV installation on my walk across the fields this morning. Notice how blue the sky is.
Placed in a field next to tracks leading to isolated farms and a back way into Ferraris Country Hotel. Four solar-powered cameras pointing around the compass. Have there been recent burglaries or fly tipping? I am sure it’s not to watch the animals or ramblers. Further enquiries are needed.
I was out for a short brisk walk in the countryside behind my house, there had been overnight light snow which always gives a different atmosphere to the familiar, making the fells look higher and more majestic. There was a satisfying crunch underfoot, mine were the only footprints. Though there were prints of rabbits, hare, deer, and the odd bird who had passed by earlier. The snow was rapidly melting in the fields but compacting to an icy danger on the lanes.
The Bowland Fells.
Soon I was heading up an icy Mile Lane back into the village for a bit of shopping.
The remaining snow had a rosy glow in tonight’s Turneresque sunset.
Woke up, fell out of bed Dragged a comb across my head Found my way downstairs and drank a cup And looking up, I noticed I was late Found my coat and grabbed my hat Made the bus in seconds flat.
Lennon and McCartney. 1967.
Fast-forward 56 years and I almost missed the bus today and the chance of a walk above Chipping. I was lounging in bed with my second coffee of the day, struggling with The Times Crossword. A little hungover from our family’s delayed Xmas/New Year celebrations taken yesterday. My prize present was a bottle of malt.
The forecast was for showers off and on all day. Why do we listen to these updated seaweed predictions? I see out of the corner of my bloodshot eye, from the injury not the whisky, blue skies over all my new neighbours’ new houses. Looking closer all seems good out there.
Made the bus in seconds flat. The stop is handily placed on the corner of my road, and I was soon in Chipping. All part of my intent to make more use of public transport this year.
The walk I quickly improvised is on good surfaces but virtually traffic free and takes you in a circle to the base of the Bowland Hills and back. I’ve described it most recently here and there in more detail.
The sky was blue, there was no wind and the views seemed clearer than usual. Into the grounds of Legram Hall I was on a private road threading its way past farms and sheep country to the open fells, although I wouldn’t be tackling them today. Too early for the snowdrop display I strolled onwards with frequent looks back across the ancient deer park to the dark side of Longridge Fell and the sunnier Pendle. I’d put some loose change into my pocket so that I could purchase free-range eggs from the honesty box of Saddle End Farm – alas there were none left. We are in the middle of Avian Flu and there seems to be a shortage of eggs everywhere. Are the hens on strike with the rest of the country?
Skipping on, down the lane past mills and old foundries. This was an industrial landscape not so long ago. Now there is a Lancashire cheese factory and the remainder of Kirk Mill.
My ‘find of the day’ was some steps in front of the Chair Work’s cottages. I’ve never noticed them before, but they lead down directly into Chipping Brook, which had powered the mills. For what purpose? Washing place for the cottagers, connected with the cotton era for cleansing the fabrics – I’ve no idea, please help.
I had time for a coffee in the wonderful Cobbled Corner Cafe before catching the 2.30 bus home.
Is it the 5th or 6th of January, Epiphany Eve or Epiphany Day? The celebration of baby Jesus as God incarnate with his visit from the Magi Kings and his revelation to the world. I’m stopping there before I get bogged down in a subject I know little of and which may be solely symbolic after all.
We were always taught as children that it was unlucky to take down the Christmas decorations, mostly Pagan in origin, before the 12th night and even worse to leave them after that. It depends on where you start counting the twelve days from. I’m playing it safe and going for today the 5th of January.
Anyhow, I hope you have all enjoyed the festivities and are looking forward to a bright New Year. Things haven’t gone to plan in my family, but more of that later.
I’m off up the fell to retrieve my Angel added to the Xmas decorated tree up there, in line with the twelfth night. It’s not the best of days. mirky and damp. Gone are the sparkling conditions of that arctic period before Xmas – welcome back to the glorious mud. Somebody else , presumably the tree’s original decorator, keeping to tradition, has cleared the baubles and tinsel I’m pleased to see. The Angel has flown.
I might as well go up to the trig point whilst I am here, another kind of celebration, this time the lure of hill tops. Not being overly obsessive about every hillock and rocky lump in our land I will happily bypass a top if the going is easier around it. But my nearest and dearest trig point is only a few minutes walk away.
An otherwise phantom fell pony is present in the flesh today, I don’t know where they go to at other times. Sometimes there are four or five milling around the summit and then none seen for days. This beast is kicking up quite a fuss, maybe because he has strayed to the wrong side of the wall. The last stile before the summit has taken a severe mauling in recent days. The culprit is unapologetic. This sets me thinking about The Hungry Horse chain of cheap family eateries, you know the thing “Kids eat for a pound” whilst the parents get p*****. Some of their meat is tougher than the woodwork of the stile. I hope I’m not opening myself to libel here – it’s a joke honest.
At the summit I meet a friendly couple, with dogs at heel of course. We pass the time of day with shared experiences of walking our treasured local landscape. At some stage in the conversation I have to apologise for the state of my face. This is the first time I’ve been out in nearly a week since I knocked myself unconscious in a fall outside my back door. I have no recollection of what happened, maybe I was going out to feed the birds or visit the dustbin. I woke up on the concrete, I’d missed the stars if there were any. Did I slip or did I have a ‘dizzy spell’? I’ve no idea, there was no alcohol involved as it was well before teatime. Dragging myself indoors I tentatively assessed the damage – a very sore right side of my skull and face, I’d obviously hit the concrete hard. It was only when I tried to pour a coffee that I realised I had lost my binocular vision. I had a shock looking in the mirror at the state of my right eye, Mike Tyson came to mind. No casualty visit for me thank you, I will do my own head injury monitoring. Not exactly the best policy but I suspect that they might have kept me in the hospital if they had been able to find me a bed. Third World health care demands some self-reliance. By today there are only purple patches on my cheek and a blood shot eye, but enough to frighten the children.
This all comes in the midst of that burst pipe incident I may have mentioned in my last post, the cancellation of our family Christmas due to members’ covid infections, a disruption to my gas supply due to a failure of the ‘smart’ meter and an obvious cancellation of any New Year’s get together. I couldn’t see out of my eye for three days. All is well now apart from the head aches and an inability to chew due to the jaw pain.
The gas problem took some sorting. We all, of a certain age, grumble about modern technology and the convoluted call centres. I spent five hours phoning British Gas on Monday to try and report the problem, I was not in the best of spirits due to the head injury. ‘The current queuing time is 75 minutes‘ was the initial response. Then that person put me through to another department – ‘The current queuing time is 45 minutes, we suggest you use our internet chat room‘ And so on, all accompanied by some weird electronic music. If they played Bob Dylan I would be happy to hang on along with my valued custom, but that would be being too selective. Thinking about it nowadays with all the clever Apps, Logarithms and stored personal data they should be able to come up with Duquesne Whistle just to keep me sweet. After several trips around India I arrived back where I started just as they were closing for the day. My head ached a lot more than it had done a few hours earlier.
The next morning, after a cold miserable night, I dreaded staring again. But maybe the latest phone number was more direct and within 10 minutes I was through to a girl from Essex, suffering from a bad cold, who cottoned on to my problem straight away, OK I did mention I was a vulnerable old man alone in a cold house with no hot water or heating. An emergency appointment with a gas engineer was arranged for that morning, and she phoned back later to see if all had gone well. Perfect customer care. No more jokes about Essex girls please. Why couldn’t it have been that simple the day before, let’s get used to the Third World.
I’ve now a new meter, hot water and heating – all is cosy and rosy for the New Year. until maybe something else creeps up on me unexpectedly.
I ended up doing my usual three-mile figure of eight loop.
But best of all I think the fresh air has cleared my head.
The sun didn’t play ball with me and wouldn’t set at the end of my forest tunnel. Nonetheless, I have been rewarded in this quest with a few brief but exhilarating walks up Longridge Fell which I might have otherwise missed in the general lethargy that comes to me in these short days.
I’ve just heard the sad news that the Terry Hall has died. For those not in the know, he was a founder member, lead singer, of the Specials, that Coventry group known for its early success with social conscience, equality and anti-racial credentials as well as their brilliant energetic two-tone music.
Shy of this commercial success, he moved on to the more minimalistic but progressive yet short-lived Fun Boy Three and other related outfits. (For an idea of what they were doing look up – Fun Boy Three – live at Regal Theatre in Hitchin 1983 – YouTube, ‘Going Home’ should have a resonance to our present all deporting Home Minister )
Coming back to touring with the reformed Specials after problems with his mental health, he achieved cult status, possibly unwanted. He had, I believe, remained true to his convictions. A brilliant talent – A sad day.
I woke today to find water coming out from under my garage door. We have had a week of freezing temperatures and I feared for the water pipes to the sink and washing machine in there. I had added some extra insulation, but it was too little too late. The garage was awash and a fountain of water was escaping from a pipe in the cupboard. I failed to turn the stiff valve, it was cramped in there and I endured a soaking.
Back into the house to turn off the main valve to stem the flow but leaving me without water or heating. Back into the garage cupboard with a head torch I could see a split in the pipe. What chance of getting a plumber on a Sunday when they will all be busy with burst pipes. I didn’t even try. Self-help first aid was needed. A rubber patch held on with Gaffer Tape and Jubilee clips might be the answer for a temporary repair. But access was difficult with all the other pipes under there. Most of these were dismantled to give me a better working space. Now I was able to squirt some WD40 onto that stuck valve.
A coffee and a warm-up back in the house, and I was ready to try again. Now using an adjustable gripper I could cautiously try and tighten that valve. Much to my relief it moved a little. Back inside to turn the main valve back on only to see water still escaping. Another turn, wary of breaking the thing all together, and it looked as though the flow was stopped. The emergency is over, I had water and heat in the house, and I can sort a plumber out tomorrow.
All this is a prelude to why an hour later I was parked on the fell road hoping to de-stress and blow the cobwebs away with a brisk walk. The above view from my car windscreen says it all. Freezing rain and no visibility. I didn’t even get out of the car.
In the middle of this sudden cold snap I hesitate on driving the lanes up onto the Fell, they can be icily treacherous. I can hardly get out of my road which being closed for the gas pipeline has not been gritted – it’s like the proverbial ice rink. But the weather is so good I can’t contain myself any longer. I needn’t have worried the road I take is clear of ice. Parked up I kick myself for not venturing forth the last couple of days. Well I don’t actually kick myself as I’ve strapped on my trusty Grivel Spider 10 point micro spikes. I have used these on Alpine treks (not climbs) and they give me confidence on icy surfaces which can crop up anywhere at altitude or in winter. Today is not the day for a slip or fall. the nurses are on strike for the first time, so casualty will be probably more chaotic than of recent months – if that is possible. I don’t intend to rant about the state of our health service, or any other service for that matter. It’s the season of good will, isn’t it?
There is a spring in my step as I follow the wall up the Fell. A satisfying crunch into the icy surface. Although the temperature is still below zero I’m well wrapped up and able to enjoy the bright sunshine. The familiar Fell Xmas tree winks at me from a distance. On closer acquaintance I see that the angel on top has flown, or some spoil sport has taken it. The season of good will.
At the trig point on Spire Hill, to give it its proper title, I’m joined by an energetic dog walker and then a couple recently moved to the area. We share our enthusiasm for all things Bowland. Across the way the snow is disappearing on the south facing slopes of the Fairsnape/Totridge group. I make a mental note to get up there soon.
Leaving my new-found friends to take a different way off the fell through the trees. I’m on a mission here. There is a straight avenue of trees deep in the forest, probably discovered by mountain bikers, which leads through a tunnel towards the light. At the end of that light I have been trying to capture a spectacular sun setting on the horizon in the gap. It didn’t pan out today at 3.20, still too far in the northern arc. Another couple of days or so and I may be in luck. We are heading to the winter solstice, December 21st this year. Wouldn’t it be great if my line of sight in those trees fell on that day. I’ll be back to try again.
I crunched my way back down the increasingly icy path with the setting sun in my eyes, past those familiar pines.
Over to the east Pendle faded into the distance.
Not bad for a short wintry walk. We need more of these.
I’ve struggled to access my WP account in recent days, so I hope this hits the airwaves. Sorry if I have not commented on your latest posts.
Our lane is being dug up for a new gas main. They started last Saturday and will be around for 7 – 10 weeks. By the Sunday my gas gave out, there was no note pushed through the door in way of explanation and there were no workmen in the road. With dread, I phoned the help line of Cadent. Remarkably I was speaking to a helpful human within minutes. He saw no reason for my gas to be disconnected. After the usual details were verified he sent me off to the meter cupboard, I grabbed a torch on the way.
“Press button A – what does it say?” “Account”
“Press button B – what does it say?” “No”
“Press both buttons – what does it say?” “OK”
After a few more sequences like this, I don’t have a button C, he instructed to hold button A for 6 seconds.
“What does it say?” “On”
“Go and try your gas hobs” And yes there was a flow of gas, magic. He thought my smart meter had developed a fault possibly with a short interruption to the gas flow on the Saturday, not so smart after all. As customer care services go that was one of the better ones, thank you Cadent.
The week passed as they came and went gradually digging most of the road up. It’s great because there is no longer any through traffic, we have unfortunately become a bit of a rat run in recent years – hasn’t everywhere?. All peace and quiet now except when they star drilling at 7.30 am.
A note was pushed through my door saying they would need access to the property this Saturday whilst they connected me to the new main. That was unfortunate as today was the sunniest day of the week, the high pressure mist having eventually lifted. My gas disappeared in the morning as a gang of workmen descended on the hole outside my house.
I lit my wood burner for the first time this winter, more for Seth my cat than myself, and settled in with a new book. Eventually a couple of likely lads in muddy boots knocked to check my meter. I didn’t like the look of the monkey wrench with which they attacked my fragile looking connecting pipe. Then there was some muttered discussion about the age and state of the stop lever. Every step of their work was duly photographed with a phone, uploaded immediately to head office. They then disappeared for half an hour or so to get some other equipment or inspiration. I was beginning to fear the worst. I pottered in the garden in the beautiful weather. Back they came and had another look without doing anything obvious, leaving me to await an ‘engineer’ in a couple of hours or so to reconnect me and check my appliances. As the afternoon dragged on I was itching to put my boots on and get up the fell to enjoy the brightest of days.
The ‘engineer’ arrived and poked about in the meter box. Mutterings about the wrong readings and he was on the phone to someone. ” I haven’t a F*****G idea what I’m doing” didn’t impress me. I kept looking at the disappearing sunlight, but he stuck to his slow laborious routine. All systems go eventually, and I thanked him for his work, he didn’t seem particularly enthused by it. Everything about my connection to the new gas main had worked well, and I complement Cadent for the operation, although I doubted its outcome at times. There will be a lot more houses to connect and more holes to dig and fill before the lane is open again, but now I’m OK Jack I’ll just relax and enjoy the traffic free few weeks.
I was up the road to Jeffrey Hill in no time for a short walk to the trig point and back. The low winter sunlight was enchanting. At the gate I came across a well-dressed man with a pod stick, tripod and microphone on his lapel. It transpires he has been producing a Vlog on the nearby Roman Road, his site is Roman Gazette if I remember correctly which I will check out later. We chat all things Roman as the shadows are lengthening. It’s now 3.30 as I set off again, everyone else is descending. Chipping Vale takes on some beautiful colours as the sun prepares to set. Up at the wall another decorated Xmas tree has appeared, smaller than the one higher up but with the tinsel glittering in the low sun. It’s a quick turnaround at the trig point, no ponies today. I come back down virtually blinded by the disappearing sun creating an almost Turner like landscape. I add a couple of baubles to the higher tree in passing.
I have just enough time to take a couple of shots of the windblown tree, one of my favourites up here. That reminds me that I should venture along the Hodder and check out that other old favourite – ‘The Winkley Oak’ in case it suffered any damage in last winter’s storms. Quite a few ancient oaks blew down in the Beast from the East.
By the time I hit the road all is dark, and the cars have their headlamps on. Strangely when I arrive in the car park there are still half a dozen cars, are people camping on the fell or just misjudged how quickly it becomes almost pitch dark?
An hour walk snatched from the end of a glorious day.
I’m happy to switch on my gas central heating and find everything in good order, it could have gone horribly wrong as in this little ditty from the past. How many of you member it?
One never knows when there could be a cloud inversion up on the fell. Last year I experienced a couple of almost perfect days up there.
The gloom down here is all-pervading. I struggle to do the daily Wordle, drinking coffee in bed. The morning is slipping away. My lane is closed to traffic at the moment for a new gas pipeline. So all peace and quiet until the gas people start drilling away outside my house. One can’t switch off easily to pneumatic drilling, so I have to get up, the rest of the week I hadn’t bothered. High pressures at this time of year gives dry and windless days but once the cloud is down it stays that way forever.
I should have taken my bike to Halton and cycled the usual way through Morecambe along the bay. But somehow I hadn’t the motivation. Taking the easy way out I decided to head up the fell. The short drive up there in mist didn’t bode well for views. I must avoid as much as possible long drives for walks next year, for the planet and my purse. It’s always next year. Parked up I was surprised by the number of cars already there.
My short walk to the summit and back was punctuated by several conversations with fellow walkers.
There were the dog walkers, lots of them, with energetic spaniels. Hardly stopping for a sniff at me, the dogs I mean, but all enthusiastic to be out whatever the weather. All very friendly. The weather was actually better than expected, no wind and almost a decent cloud inversion over Chipping Vale. Not good enough for photos.
A couple were steaming up behind me, they recognised me, I struggled to place them initially. Friends from my lad’s school days, played in my garden and remembered me climbing up my house walls. It was great to catch up and how lovely to see how mature and pleasant people are, we are a friendly lot in Longridge, but all is changing. That gas pipe is for the hundreds of houses being built in our once tight-knit community.
The next encounter was with the fell ponies which sometimes appear. Sturdy equines milling around the trig point.
The fairy or is it an angel has appeared on the fell Christmas tree, it needs a few more baubles.
I stop once again for a conversation with an ascending hiker “I’m only 85 he declares” The fell is for everybody as he disappears into the mist. Let’s hope I’m still coming up here in the next decade and the younger walkers will stop and encourage me onwards.
It’s time I did my irregular litter pick up here, there were lots of doggy poo bags and discarded tissues to remove. Maybe tomorrow if this depressing cloud persists. it must be better than the world football on TV.
A rather sad reminder of how we all did lock down. Or is it an omen for our fractured society?
It is still foggy down in Longridge, and they are still digging up the road. I drag my rusty exercise bike from the garage to the kitchen though I doubt it will be my salvation.
With the trees almost bare of leaves we saw extra detail today on our stroll out of Hurst Green. Mike had phoned me the night before thinking it could be a dry day, at least in the morning. My knee was painful from Saturday’s walk around the Silverdale area, but I didn’t like to put him off – I have done so several times recently. I picked him up as his car was looking worse for wear after a close encounter with an HGV. He is slowly working his way through the maze of insurance reports.
Parking up opposite the Bayley Arms which is sadly once more deserted and neglected. It is a difficult time for the hospitality trade, but it would appear that it was being poorly managed according to the ubiquitous Tripadvisor. Hurst Green is in the civil parish of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley. I’m mentioning this because Mike spotted the pub’s alternative name spelling at odds with the ‘official’. The parish is stuffed with listed buildings many associated with Stonyhurst College and estate. The diverse architecture of the area does make it an ideal rambling venue for anyone with a historical interest. I restrain myself from photographing most of the gems passed today, well only a couple. The rest are hidden in my previous posts.
We suspect the Tolkien Trail will be very muddy, and it is becoming overused. So we head in the other direction dropping down to Dean Brook with its remnants of the water powered industries of previous centuries. Bobbin and spindle workings were common hereabouts supplying the flourishing Lancashire cotton mills. Mill races, previous ponds and evidence of damming seem more obvious today in the sunshine. The water is very lively after heavy rain. I used to bring my children and subsequently grandchildren along here, it was a favourite spot for ‘pooh sticks’ launched from the bridge and then followed downstream as far as possible. Today you would not have able to keep pace.
I divert from the path to show Mike the abandoned Sand Quarry which provided the building blocks for much of Hurst Green. I had forgotten how extensive it had been, again everything looked clearer with the bare trees. Years ago Simon and I climbed an exciting route up the middle of the largest rock face using many of the features left by the quarrymen – shot holes and incut slots. It all looked overgrown today – nature slowly taking over.
Onwards we went up the old cart track from the bridge. How many times have I photographed Greengore, an old hunting lodge, but today I found a different angle which highlighted its impressive southern frontage.
Once on the top road we just ambled along catching up on the news, there were few cars to disturb us. Down the lane back to Stonyhurst we passed the well known Pinfold Cross commemorating a worker’s untimely death. Cometh the hour.
And on past what had been the stables for the horse-drawn sledges pulling stone down from Kemple End Quarry, better quality than Sand Rock, to build the college and its houses. You can still follow the line of the sunken track up the fellside. The tumble down barn has been recently restored and upgraded to an upmarket holiday cottage.
We debated which route to take back to the village – go right and stay on the road all the way or continue down and follow a way through Stonyhurst College. We went for the more interesting latter knowing that it would entail a muddy section towards the end.
The college forefront was busy with coaches ferrying pupils around. The main building is under wraps for some restoration but the elaborate finials and roofline of St. Peter’s Church was just waiting to be photographed against the autumn sky. Here is my modest result – only to be approached by ‘security’ to say no photography. Why? Children’s dormitories. What in the church? I hope I don’t offend anybody with my picture.
The muddy stretch has been improved by a short section of tarmacked track on the hill heading into Hurst Green. We entered in by the old smithy and the Almshouses and it started raining as we drove home over the fell Cometh the hour.
I have not pulled my boots on for a month or so. Today was too windy for cycling, so a short local walk was in order. Do you remember those days of lockdown when only short excursions were allowed – I stuck to the rules. I walked through the fields to Gill Bridge, on through Ferraris country hotel (doing takeaways only) and back along the almost empty road. I repeated the same walk or variations many times, using hand sanitiser after every gate latch or stile. Others had the same idea and the footpaths became well trodden and easy to follow.
We are two years on from there, most of us have had Covid and thankfully survived and life is moving on. We are however faced with another batch of problems, but let’s not dwell on those today. It’s time for some fresh air and exercise.
I repeat that same four mile route from my house. It does not look as though many others are walking the paths. They are overgrown and unloved. No need for hand sanitiser any more, did it ever do any good? The views have not changed, and I’m surrounded by the Bowland Fells and Longridge Fell. The clouds blow through in the blustery winds with odd bursts of sunshine.
I find chestnuts, ‘conkers’, where I hadn’t realised there were chestnut trees. A handful go into my pocket for planting later and while I’m at it collect some oak nuts, acorns. Beech nuts are in profusion along the roadside. Unidentified fungi are seen in the fields. Hawthorn berries add a touch of rouge to the hedgerows.
Into the outdoors.
Autumn’s fruitfulness is our bonus for this splendid short rural walk on my doorstep. My spirits are lifted, and our other problems put in their place.
I mustn’t leave it so long before I next tread these paths, they don’t deserve to be forgotten.
It’s two months since I was last able to do a walk out of Mark Sutcliffe’s guide book. Finding one locally I strode out today on his Jeffrey Hill chapter. The suggestion was to park at Little Town Dairy, a farm shop, nursery and café. I feel guilty using a businesses’ car park if I’m not giving them any business so I parked by the road higher up on the route, which was to prove tiresome later in the day.
I had reservations about the initial route through the upmarket barn conversions at Dilworth Brow Farm, previously a run down property. There was no need to worry, the path through was obvious, and even the local dog was friendly. Every farm seems to be erecting holiday lodges, Is this a result of the recent ‘staycation’ mentality?
An uncertain start.
Once into fields I could enjoy views over the Ribble Valley and distant Pendle as I dropped to an ancient bridleway. Being enclosed and sunken this was once a boggy mess, but drainage has been installed and an upgraded grit surface added. This was only a short section of the right of way, one wonders why certain paths are improved (a further one later) when others are neglected.
Note the size of the left-hand gatepost.
I made the obligatory short diversion to view the Written Stone, I have written of this before,excuse the pun. A car passes down the farm lane, I thought I recognised friends from years ago and regretted not stopping them. As I walked through the tidy environs of Cottam House I asked a man about the history of the place, he turned out to be the son of the above couple. So we had a catch-up, I passed on my regards and walked on.
The Written Stone.
This was the start of a slow climb back up to the ridge of Longridge Fell. Rough ground skirting the golf club and then the road up to Jeffrey Hill at Cardwell House. A large walking group was coming past and didn’t seem over friendly, head down mentality. There was a straggler taking some interest in his surroundings. We ended up in a long conversation about all things, as he said “it’s not dark till late”. I felt he had lost connection with the route march he had been on. Nobody came looking for him.
Up to Jeffrey Hill.
The Ribble Valley and Pendle.
No time for stragglers.
I took a picture of the iconic view which I mentioned in a recent post. A ‘glass wall’ has replaced the iron railings depicted in the painting I own from 40 years ago.
That view from Jeffrey Hill.
Nearby was a bench for refreshments. Some stones had been intricately carved as part of an art sculpture from 2014, It was a shame they removed the star of the installation, the Sun Catcher.
Remains of the sculpture installation.
Now steeply downhill, look at the contours, ending up on the road at Thornley Hall. The ford leading off the road was surprisingly full. The next bit of track starts as a track but quickly becomes an overgrown narrow path, the book advises a stick for hacking back the vegetation. I happily swashbuckled my way along and at the end came onto another strange short stretch of gritted path.
Looking back up to Jeffrey Hill.
The listed C18th Thornley Hall.
A promising start to the bridleway…
…soon becomes this…
…and then unexpectedly this.
Familiar lanes took me past Wheatley Farm and a house that always has a splendid floral display. Onto the busy main road where care is needed on the bend. I was glad to be back in the peaceful fields of Chipping Vale under the Bowland Hills. Heading towards Little Town Dairy where I could have parked at the start, but no I was faced with another steep climb back onto the fell. I reckon I had climbed over 1000ft in the 7 miles which took me 4 hours including all those stops.
Wheatley Farm, 1774.
One has to spend one’s money on something. 57 has gone shopping.
Parlick and Fairsnape.
There was one more encounter at Sharples House. The farmer there had previously talked of having the largest cheese press in Lancashire, I believed him. In the past many farms in the area made their own cheese, tasty Lancashire. Today he seemed in a good mood, so I enquired further, and he took me to see the stone, it was indeed large and must have weighed a ton. He explained that the house was from the late 17th century. A former occupant, a Peter Walken (1684-1769) had been a nonconformist minister as well as a farmer. Uniquely he kept a series of diaries, most have been lost but two from 1733-34 have been found and published by a researcher from Preston museum. The present farmer was contacted and was able to see the journals but described them as boring, though they must have given an insight into farming life in the first half of the 18th century. He also told me of a mystery from the last century when two thieves broke into the house killing the farmer, but the daughter perhaps escaped hiding in an adjacent barn. One wonders how much local history has been lost.
There is another mystery just along the lane at Birks Farm – what is this structure in the wall built for? I should have asked the last farmer, next time.
Up the steep lane, over the last stile and I finish this splendid walk back at my car overlooking Longridge.