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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.