Category Archives: Pennines

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – the darker side.

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I’m being unkind there, the darker side of the Pennines is actually in the White Rose county. But it is often gloomy as you drive down through these eastern Lancashire valleys with the prominent Peel Tower watching over you.

Walk 28, Holcombe Moor from Ramsbottom promised “A non-too-demanding walk from the endearingly quirky of Ramsbottom up onto the moors and back in time for coffee and cake – or a pint – in one of many inviting bars and cafés” That turned out to be a little short on the detail, both good and bad, but we are out for adventure and discovery after all.

Ramsbottom, forget the corny jokes, is, or was a solid Lancashire Mill town. Wikipedia as usual has more than enough information. It is now an apparently thriving, on the evidence of all the people there today, shopping destination. Its strength is the number of independent businesses both basic and frivolous. Parking was not easy on a busy Saturday. The station, one of the main attractions, with sometimes steam hauled trains up the valley on the East Lancs Railway was just around the corner. Only diesels today but come later and there will be Santa Specials.DSC02246DSC02245DSC02251DSC02253

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Relics of the past.

I’ll gloss over the first stretch through a modern industrial landscape. But all of a sudden one is out into open fields with the River Irwell alongside. I’d been here before on the  Irwell Sculpture Trail which at the time seemed very short of sculptures. Today I was noticing things new like the ‘stone hedge’ bordering a field, the nod to industrial heritage on the site of Cross End Mill, (a C19th dye, bleach and subsequent textile print works) the little allotments and a modern day communal food bank.

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Capture Cross End

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The path deposited me in the isolated hamlet of Strongstry, a couple of back to back streets which must have provided housing for mill workers in the past. There seemed to be a sense of community with book banks and bird feeding stations. A nice place to live.

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Now for the interesting and unexpected bit, underplayed in the book. A scramble up alongside a lively stream in a hidden, rocky, tree lined gorge. Pure delight for 3/4 of a mile and 500 feet of climbing. Well done the National Trust who care for this land.

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Out the top and across the road the character of the walk changes as open moorland is reached with increasing views over all those industrial valleys. The arrival at the top was greeted with a plethora of signs warning of the dangers of the MOD firing range, with more regulations than you could throw a bomb at. There were no red flags or explosions today, so I could happily trip along the ridge of Holcombe Moor.

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The main point of interest was a stone monument erected in 1902 on the substantial base of an ancient Pilgrim Cross. The inscriptions told of the way to Whalley Abbey in the C12th.

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From there I could have made a beeline to the distant Peel Tower over Harcles Hill, but the going looked boggy and besides I was following Mark’s footsteps. His way was no less boggy but had views down into the steep sided valley of Red Brook south of Bull Hill. I’m not certain I took the right track, there were so many, but eventually I homed in on Pell Tower after an arduous half hour or so, again underplayed in the guide. It was a lot taller than I had remembered, 128ft in fact, and today as always the destination of many family groups coming up the short way from Holcombe. Built in 1851 with public subscription to mark gratitude to locally born Sir Robert Peel for repealing the complicated Corn Laws which were causing starvation in the agricultural workers. Political intrigue was as complicated then as it is today. I think of him more for his reform of the criminal justice system and the establishment of Police Constables, ‘peelers’.

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A murky tower in the distance.

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Arduous conditions – welcome to winter walking.

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Bull Hill – I’ve never knowingly visited.

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Tried an arty shot with the ‘towers’ of Manchester in the background. It didn’t come off.

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Look at the size of the figures.

I found a good stone to sit on overlooking the valley and opened my lunch box containing my lovingly handcrafted egg and tomato salad sandwich. Placing it on the stone behind me whilst I poured some hot tea. Reaching for the anticipated sandwich it had disappeared. I had to look twice, but it just wasn’t there. The culprit was a silent poodle who must have crept up behind me, there he was finishing off my lunch higher up the hill. I suspect his owner was hiding out of shame.

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There’s a dog up there…     I’m on my way down.

Rested but not fed I started to make my way down steep tracks, past a Millennium Bench, and lanes through Holcombe. A mixture of old stone cottages and extravagant new properties, the former predominating the lower I went. My intention was to stop off for a pint in the Shoulder of Mutton pub and phone the plastic bag man, living nearby, for him to join me in what was once one of our haunts after climbing. But alas the place was boarded up , landlord needed. It is not a good time for pubs. So down steeply, and I mean steeply, into Ramsbottom.DSC02340DSC02341DSC02343

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A Lowry’esque church – Holcombe.

DSC02351The streets were still busy. I was disappointed to see also that the Grant Arms in the centre had closed, I stayed there on the Irwell Sculpture Trail, it was pretty grotty at the time I must admit. It is now a financial investment office. You can see why traditional pubs suffer as quite a few small bars were scattered around, offering a good range of beers often home-brewed, cocktails and a bright environment. They were all full of happy people.DSC02357DSC02355

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Maybe here lies the answer…

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…more likely here in a modern bar.

I was pleased to see that the welcoming Chocolate Café across the way was still in business, it was always a haven on shopping trips. All things chocolate.DSC02358

Anyhow, a change of plan, and we were soon sat in The Garsdale on the edge of Bury enjoying a beer and chewing the fat as they say in these parts.

A superb varied walk full of interest but a little more demanding than Mark suggests, or am I getting old? Surely not. Thanks for sticking with me.

CaptureRamsbottom.

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Gentle Pendleside.

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It’s been a while since I walked alongside Mark Sutcliffe, he of Cicerone’s Walking in Lancashire guide. Apart from a short road walk around Longridge Fell with JD the other day I’ve languished in the house. Time to get going again and test my knee out. I scan the chapters looking for something undemanding. I toss up between Blacko hills, (Chapter 27) and the Clarion House walk on Pendle. The former looks the easiest, even if the latter looks the more interesting. The fact that it was Halloween Eve never crossed my mind as I delved into Pendleside. On reflection the immediate Pendle area would have been chock-a-block. (I like that word)  Lucky choice.

My mood in the morning was as gloomy as the weather, but I had enjoyed that extra hour in bed. The weather improved alongside my mood, I was just glad I was in the car post walk when the afternoon deluge hit the area. The M65 virtually came to a halt as the skies blackened and gallons of water came down from somewhere. I’m now safely home.

Let’s park up at Higherford, there is a bridge here now over Pendle Water. I struggle with the car park machine, ‘it’ knows I’m here and will charge me later on my return – that preys on my mind for much of the walk.

Across the way is Pendle Heritage Centre. I think I was too early for its attractions – tearoom. gardens and museum. Maybe later but then it is too late. Park Hill House below has associations with the Bannister family later to run the sub 4 minute mile. I do spot the first Tercet on The Lancashire Witches Walk .DSC02105DSC02104

Alongside the water I get into my stride. Autumn is everywhere. There are reminders of previous mill operations, but I am soon out into the countryside.DSC02114DSC02119DSC02120

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I’m heading towards Blacko Tower.

 A plaque reads Built by J Stansfield1890 Restored 1950. Approximately 30ft high. Built as a folly. Circular. Coursed rubble. Widely spaced battlements. Two steps up to a plain doorway. Spiral stone staircase inside leading to observation platform. Prominent hilltop landmark. 

Such a shame there is no public access, it must be a fine viewpoint. Time for the citizens of Blacko to stage a protest march. I make a mental note to return mid-week and make a clandestine ascent.DSC02127

Today I’m content to follow vague contouring paths on the rough hillside past farms to Malkin Tower Farm. Maybe the site of a ‘witches coven’ in 1612 from where the women were marched off to Lancaster to be tried and executed. There is lots of speculation as to the true version of events. All is quiet today with the farmer’s wife subtly showing me the diverted way. A few arrows would have helped, but all is mysterious around here. DSC02129 At the next farm I weave through a complicated series of gates in their garden. Enquiring of a lady, to confirm my way, that few people walk through here – she says “most get lost”. I doubt the irony strikes her. Again a few yellow arrows wouldn’t go amiss. At last, I’m free and walk down a lane to another farm, Whitemoor Bottom. The guide says take the footpath on the right, but there is no obvious way –  I strike boldly through the farmyard and onwards down the fields. This is horsey country and barriers keep appearing, is it this side of the wires or the other? Determination sees me through, and I drop into a wooded gully with little sign of others coming this way. But I’m on course and eventually come out onto a lane at Holly Bush Farm. Sand Hall, which looks as though it should be listed, is passed, and the lane takes me to Foulridge Reservoir.DSC02132DSC02135

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Time for lunch, so I climb up to the dam for a bird’s eye view of the reservoir. It’s depleted of water and the only action from the sailing club is a model yacht race.DSC02137DSC02144

A bridle way takes me to join the canal as it emerges from the mile long Foulridge Tunnel, completed in 1796! A way mark confirms it is the Leeds – Liverpool Canal. Maybe I should walk its historic length one day.DSC02146DSC02149DSC02150

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Halfway down the locks a path takes me through a pasture and into an upmarket estate. As I progress down the main road the older stone houses typical of these mill villages appear, Weavers cottages now desirable properties. On the corner by the packhorse bridge is the old toll-house (early C19th) with a board listing prices – almost as complicated as the pay machine in the car park.DSC02115DSC02106 (2)DSC02107

A good start to my winter walking, shorter than the guide book suggests, and not a ghost or witch in sight.

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*****

Foulridge

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Blackburn’s countryside.

                                                                            Glorious May.

Walk no 36 from Mark Sutcliffe’s guide combines the hills of Billinge with the River Darwen.

The River Darwen winds its way through the urban environments of Darwen and Blackburn and then has a glorious run in the countryside to eventually empty into the Ribble. I first met it today as I followed Mark’s route from Pleasington Station into Witton Country Park. Here it flows quietly through the meadows and playing fields. Walking upstream I met lots of families, dog walkers and picnickers in the afternoon sunshine. The park s very popular and well-used by the multinational people of Blackburn.

Billinge Hill above Witton Park.

Butler’s Bridge on the River Darwen.

Soon after leaving the river I was climbing steadily for what seemed ages but was only a mile or so. There are paths everywhere in Billinge Woods, there is even a tunnel, and I do find them confusing, so it was with some surprise that I found myself at the summit without any problem. The instructions in the guide were spot on. The OS map shows this as a viewpoint, but that was long ago before the trees took over. Maybe a bit of forest management by the council is needed. The plaque commemorating a court up here in 1429 is looking worse for wear also.

I headed west to find my way out of the woods and onto the ridge of the Yellow Hills (named after the Gorse that flowers here most of the year) pausing at the toposcope dedicated to Alfred Wainwright who needs no introduction. There were views over the nearby towns, but it was too hazy to see his beloved Lakeland. There are several links to walks to the memorial  For more details.

Paths, now following The Witton Weavers Way, led down through bluebell woods, lush meadows,  inquisitive cattle, newly cut fields, into the wooded gorge to meet the River Darwen once again. This I followed on familiar ways through the old mills at Hoghton Bottoms, under the railway arch and past the weir into meadows alongside the river. The last time I was along here the paths were almost impassable with mud and water, today the ground was bone dry.

Ford through the Darwen, oh there is a footbridge.

I didn’t enjoy the stretch alongside the busy A road and was glad when I turned off on the lane back to Pleasington. A seat in the garden of the parish churcof Feniscowles, Immanuel, was ideal for a break and snack. The River Darwen was crossed for the last time at Walk Mill, and I was back at the station where the local bowls club was in full swing as was the pub opposite.

Remains of Old Feniscowles Hall down by the Darwen.

Immanuel Church Feniscowles.

One for the archives.

I had seen a sign for Pleasington Priory and realising it was just a little farther up the lane went to investigate this Grade I listed Catholic Church. Trees in the grounds prevented a good view of the exterior with its tall front elevation. Above the arched entrance doorway was a prominent rose window. Gargoyles and statues seemed to be everywhere.

A well thought out and varied walk, apart from the short unavoidable A6061 stretch. The day was perfect with the countryside at its late spring best, making me feel truly alive. The modest 7 miles took me nearly four hours against the three suggested in the guide, I wasn’t rushing as I tried to protect my knee ligament and there was a profusion of colourful flowers to photograph.

*****

CICERONE’S LANCASHIRE – Accrington’s finest.

In less than 20 minutes it is reported that 241 died and 392 lay wounded from the 700-strong Accrington Pals battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July1st1916.  Lord Kitchener was responsible for devising ‘Pals’ battalions from the same neighbourhood so that recruits could fight alongside their friends. Unfortunately, when there was a massacre, losses were concentrated on single towns. Accrington was one such town. More of that later – but first I have a hill to climb, Great Hameldon, another chapter from Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone book.

I have parked up just below Peel Park and find my way up woodland paths to the view point and Peel Monument. The crowded streets of Accrington slowly retreat down below. There is also an unexpected trig point up here on the Northern rim. I then follow the edge of the hill around above the A56 speeding though the gap below, a road familiar to me with the quarried walls either side. There is a way under the carriageway and I head up to, but circle around and above, the farm onto Moleside Moor. Behind a wall are a couple of ‘slate poems’ but I think from a different pen than the ones around Longridge. Rough ground and then bog bring me to the base of Great Hameldon for that steep ascent to the trig point. I’m not sure whether I have been here before. All is space with extensive views, unfortunately hazy despite the bright sunshine and strong wind. Pendle always dominates, and away to the East is the weather station on  Hameldon Hill. There is nobody else up here except the skylarks, singing above me.

From the trig, a vague path takes me south to a wall next to an ancient well. //thejournalofantiquities.com/2015/03/01/mary-hoyle-well-hyndburn-moor-lancashire/

Strangely, a reservoir to the right has been decommissioned. Then I’m on a sunken bridleway passing through a quarried landscape. I have to get across the busy A56 before following a golf course to find myself in a housing estate.  The guidebook sees me through this maze, out through Lounds Wood and into  Haworth Park below the House which serves as an art gallery.

This brings me to the second part of my post. A friend visited the Haworth Gallery recently and commented on their unique collection of Tiffany Glass, all unknown to me. Time for a visit, this walk happens to come this way – how convenient.

The Haworths were successful mill owners and William had Hollins Hill, now the Haworth, built in a Tudor style, by  Walter Brierley in 1909. He lived there with his sister, but died in 1913, followed by his sister in 1920. The house and its collection of paintings and antiquities were bequeathed to the people of Accrington. It has remained a gallery ever since, with preservation and restorations over the years.

The link to Tiffany is through a Joseph Briggs, born in Accrington in 1873 and until he was 18 worked as an engraver in his father’s Calico printworks. He then emigrated to America and in due course was employed at the Louis Comfort Tiffany glass works, famous for innovative art nouveau design. Briggs did well at Tiffany’s and when Tiffany retired in 1919  Joseph was in charge of Tiffany Studios producing windows, mosaics and lamps. Fashions changed, and the company faltered in 1932. Tiffany died in 1933 leaving Briggs to dispose of unwanted stock, throwing much of it away. But then he started sending some of the finest pieces over to Accrington.
Joseph Briggs died in New York on 28 March 1937, aged 64. Originally the collection was displayed in Oak Hill Museum but later sent to the Haworth Gallery only to be packed away during the Second World War. It was only in 1976 that this world-famous collection of Tiffany Glass went on show again.

The house itself is imposing, with views across the valley to Great Hameldon and my morning’s route. The grounds are extensive, and apparently the rose garden has to be seen in season. But today I am more interested with the interior; wood panelled rooms, feature fireplaces, a curving staircase. A welcome from the friendly staff, and I’m off to their in-house café for a coffee. This seems a popular meeting place for lunch, the plates all looked very appetising.

Revived, I commence my tour of the Tiffany Collection. The history and techniques were fully documented, and the variety and styles of glass was amazing. Only later did I notice that photography was not allowed. In any case the shades, different lustres and forms of the glass have to be appreciated directly. The collection filled rooms on the ground floor and spread up to the next floor. The elegance of the rooms fitted well with Tiffany’s artistry.

Also up here was an exhibition of watercolours in the corridor and oils in one of the adjacent rooms. These were the work of a Paddy Campbell and depicted scenes from the local moorlands. Some robust, larger oils were very impressive, interpreting the wildness and lighting perfectly. He has definitely been out there capturing the magic. This temporary exhibition had just opened and the artist himself was wandering around, all too pleased to expand on his canvases.

Before leaving, I visited in the grounds an Accrington Pals Memorial,  which brings me back to my introduction to this post. This is a replica of one in Serre (built with Accrington Bricks), on the site of the battle of the Somme.

Farther down into town, I came into Oak Hill Park, where on the highest point was a war memorial erected in 1922. Tablets name 865 fallen from World War I and additionally 170 from World War II. One further name has been added, for Northern Ireland, and two from the Falklands Campaign.

Soon I was in the centre of Accrington and its grand stone Victorian buildings from the cotton era, where next to the church was a further smaller memorial (2002) to the Accrington Pals and other Lancashire regiments losses.

I had a slow trudge back up through the streets to find my car.

*****

LET’S LOOK AT SOME LIMESTONE.

I’ve not been far from base recently. There is a cousin, ‘the pieman’, living in Skipton whom I’ve not met up with for two years. Admittedly, he has phoned me on several occasions with a suggestion for a walk, but I have always declined with the excuse of injury. This can’t go on. It turns out he is suffering also, so when I suggest a short walk, on his home territory, the die is cast.

Yorkshire Limestone has been a favourite climbing venue for me over the years. Malham, Gordale, Attermire, Twistleton, Crumack Dale, Oxenber – the list goes on. The last time I visited the imposing Pot Scar the polish on the holds was unnerving, so in recent years, we retreated to the safer bolted climbs of Giggleswick. Why not revisit some of these venues on today’s walk.

There used to be a garage or was it a café on Buckhaw Brow above Settle, but now all is bypassed, and my mind is clouded. In the past, buses came this way, struggling up the hill from Settle. We are parked on the Craven Fault. Limestone high on the left and gritstone down below on the right where the land has slipped. My knowledge of geology is rudimentary.

The pieman’ is proud to display his vintage wool Dachstein Mitts, once an essential item of all climbers, famed for their warmth and water resistance. They had the added advantage that when winter climbing, they could virtually glue you to the ice. Are they still available?

The little roadside crag is examined, yes there would be routes on it, and then we are off along the airy escarpment. A path is followed, linking stiles in the substantial stone walls, with views down the fault to Settle. Up to our left are limestone cliffs with hidden caves, we are heading for Schoolboys Tower, a cairn associated with Giggleswick School down below. Stones were added to the cairn by pupils on their last, or was it their first, day. A smaller nearby cairn has been named Schoolgirls once the school had admitted the other sex.

Having reached the ‘tower’, looking a little dilapidated, we went in search of Schoolboys Cave down below on the steeper escarpment. A bit of scrambling, and we found the entrance to what was only a short cavern, curiosity satisfied we then peered into the more cavernous quarry nearby, now redundant.

What followed was a mistake. I wanted to link up with The Dales High Way coming out of Stainforth. The obvious way would have been to follow the River Ribble or even the quiet road up the valley from Stackhouse. No, I eschewed both for some cross-country  escapade involving some inelegant and illicit wall climbing. I hope the farmer is not reading this, although despite risking damage to his walls, our clothing and appendages, not a stone was dislodged.  As a diversion, we were treated to  excellent views of  the stately  Pen-y-ghent.

Things improved once we were on a signed path. Over the rise, the long escarpment of Smearsett Scar led us on. We started to meet more (sensible) walkers. The last time we were here, we climbed to the trig point on the Scar for its views, today we were less enthusiastic and settled into a wall for lunch. I regret not recording for historical evidence the size of ‘the pieman’s‘ sandwiches.

My eyes were scanning the cliffs of Pot Scar for routes often climbed. Will I ever return to those steep walls?

The farm at the head of Feizor was busy with cattle being let out onto the higher fields. We stood aside as the stockmen herded the cows, calves and a moody bull. Feizor was always a sleepy hamlet, but now there is a café and several holiday lets. Despite this, I think It will always be at the back of beyond.

As we gained height, looking back to Feizor the distinctive top of Ingleborough could be made out. New finger pointers show us the way back across clipped limestone grasslands to Buckhaw. We were both feeling the effects of a short but unintentionally fairly strenuous day.

Make that a splendid day.

*****


SALT OF THE EARTH.

                                             Salt’s Mill.  Oil on two canvasses.  D Hockney 1997.

Titus Salt was born in Morley  on 20th September 1803, the son of a successful wool merchant. He joined the family firm, which became one of the most important worsted companies in Bradford. He took over the running of the firm in 1833 when his father retired, and eventually owned five mills in Bradford. The city became a horror story of the Industrial revolution, with poor working conditions, squalid housing, polluted air and water supplies. Life expectancy, of just over eighteen years, was one of the lowest in the country.

To improve matters, Titus decided in 1850 to move his business to a green field site where he built an industrial community on the banks of the Aire and next to the canal. Salt’s mill, Italianate in style, was the largest and cleanest in Europe. At first his 3,500 workforce travelled from Bradford, but to improve their lot over the years he built housing for them. He integrated into the Saltaire village:  parks, churches, schools, hospital, almshouses, railway station, public baths, libraries and shops. But no Public House. Clean water was piped in, gas for lighting and heating, and outside loos for every house. He did charge a rent for his properties but provided superior living and working conditions, a model of town planning in the C19th.

Titus Salt died in Dec 1876 having given away much of his wealth to good causes. The business continued under his sons but over the years declined, wound up and sold to business syndicates in 1893.  Textile production continued into the mid C20th and finally closed in 1986. The village itself had been sold to the Bradford Property Trust in 1933 thus enabling the houses to be bought by their occupiers.

An outstanding entrepreneur, Jonathan Silver, bought the Mill the following year and within months opened a gallery exhibiting the work of his friend, Bradford-born artist David Hockney. With Silver’s enthusiasm, the mill developed into the vibrant space we see today. He died young, but the enterprise is still run by his family.

Saltaire was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001, recognised for its international influence on town planning.

Well with all that write up it was time I paid a visit to Yorkshire. A wet Sunday in February was chosen. I drove through the floods down the Aire Valley. You realise the scale of the mill and village as you pull off the hectic suburban road.  The car park was busy despite the foul weather. As well as the historic buildings and the connection with the artist Hockney: the mill now houses cafés, upmarket retail outlets, artist materials, an excellent book selection, antiques, cycles etc. All waiting to make a hole in your wallet, though the parking and entry are free. I had come basically to see Hockney’s artworks, but was impressed with everything else that was on offer. Everything is on a grand scale here, from the size of the stone building blocks to the massive indoor floor spaces.

 

You enter into the long ‘1853 Gallery’ with works by Hockney from different periods as well as a large selection of artists’ materials, all under the gaze of Titus Salt. The walls are all windows, so ingenuity has been needed to display the Hockney pictures. Time to get  used to the large scale of this place.  Hockney started his career at Bradford College of Art school (1953–57) and the Royal College of Art, London (1959–62), Portraits have always been an important part of his works and some early examples are exhibited here…

Red Celia. Lithograph 1984.

Margaret Hockney. 1997 oil on canvas.

…as well as some of his more recent computer generated portraits.

The next floor up was a gigantic book and poster shop where I had to be extra strict with myself. The queue for the diner looked daunting. Somewhere behind in the depths of the mill was an antique centre, an outdoor outlet and an upmarket home and kitchen showroom.

Having manoeuvred around all these, I arrived in a long gallery with some of Hockney’s abstract offerings from his time in Malibu Beach.

Round the corner was a stunning ceramic installation depicting Batley and Bradford by Philippa Threlfall, 1972.

I eventually found the way up to the top floor where I sat and watched a video of the history of Saltaire from which I gleamed my information for this post. In the next room were some historical artefacts.

As you move around the galleries, there are views out of the windows reminding you of the extent of this building and the surrounding village.

The major Hockney exhibition was on the top floor. In the first space was a video presentation of his iPad and iPhone pictures using the brushes app, which he emailed to friends. They came up three at a time and were a variety of vibrant styles. The larger exhibition was entitled “The Arrival of Spring” – a series of iPad paintings done on different days from his car parked on a Yorkshire Wolds lane from January to May in 2011. He made the most of the portability and speed of using the hi-tech iPad, capturing  subtle changes in the light. He was able to print them out on a large scale

These pictures celebrate fleeting moments of intense beauty, and remind us of the importance – and the joy we get from looking closely.”

I’m ready for Spring – aren’t you? Worth clicking for enlarged images.

I came out of the mill to a broody winter day with hail showers moving in. I wanted to have a look at some nearby Saltaire streets, under the shadow of the mill, before the light disappeared. The terraced houses were obviously now desirable properties, and the shops on Victoria Street appeared prosperous. Chic Yorkshire.

Next time I will give myself more time – a grand day out.

ISAAC’S TEA TRAIL. 4. ALLENDALE TO NENTHEAD.

 

Thursday,    10th June.      11.5 miles.

As usual, I don’t get away as early as I had planned, there is rain forecast for after lunch. Allendale is quiet, the school bus has taken the local children off somewhere else.

At the bottom of the hill I rejoin the East Allen River next to an old corn mill, but soon I’m on paths through the meadows. Remote farm houses appear out of nowhere. One little cottage has no road to it, they have to walk down to the footbridge over the East Allen and up to the main road, the lady said she had just done her school ‘run’, what a place to find for a Bohemian lifestyle. They keep horses too. Eventually I reach that footbridge over the river at Peckriding Crags, a popular Victorian picnic spot.

The house with no road.

The morning drifts by as I follow carefully the waymarks through complicated fields, sometimes close to the river and others diverted away from it. There are rabbits and sheep everywhere.

I drop down to the river at Studdon Bridge where there is a shaft going down to the Blackett Level 25 m below. More isolated farms are passed. A farmer from one tells me of a successful scheme to introduce children to agricultural and environmental projects. At Rowantree Stob a bastle has been conserved and one is able to wander around it.

 

Rowantree Stob Bastle.

Spot the Curlew.

Slowly I start climbing out of the valley and meet The Black Way, at first a rough estate road but becoming a vague path through the heather. This route would have been busy in the mining days with ponies taking their loads of ore to the smelt mills. The weather is changing with a cold wind bringing in light showers and obscuring the views. I shelter in the lee of a peat hag for a bite to eat before carrying on over higher ground. It would be easy to go astray up here. Over to the southeast is Killhope Law in County Durham, I’m hovering between Northumberland and Cumbria. As I lose height, the enclosures and ruins of Coalcleugh come into sight – once a thriving village with chapel, library and pub. Not much remains, and today it feels a rather bleak place to be.

That provocative estate sign again.

KIllhope Law, been there …  done that.

Coalcleugh.

The last climb over the moors takes me to the highest point of the Tea Trail, 585m, on the county boundary. I don’t linger but press on down towards Nenthead where the moors are full of the evidence of the past – spoil heaps, hushes and ruined buildings.

 

The border.

‘Old Peter’ clock face from the tower on Nenthead market house until the early 1900s.

 

Bainbridge Memorial Water Pump. 1841.

The bike repair man is still busy but The Miners Arms  no longer serves refreshments and the museum is closed, so there is nothing to keep me in Nenthead. My car is the only one in the carpark, thankfully it still has four wheels.

*****

*****

Isaac’s Tea trail has proved to be a classic little long distance way, all 38 miles of it. This is beautiful English countryside with a wonderful heritage. The villages are largely unspoilt and seem to retain a good sense of community often lost in today’s society. Accommodation and shops are plentiful. I’ve enjoyed the wildlife, even though I didn’t encounter any red squirrels, and learnt something of the lead mining industry which shaped the area. The ancient paths are clear but not heavily used, so are a joy to explore. I would highly recommend this as a short backpacking trip for the casual walker looking for exercise and interest.   Where to next in this ‘staycation’ year?

 

ISAAC’S TEA TRAIL. 3. NINEBANKS TO ALLENDALE.

   Wednesday, 9th June.    11 miles.

  From the terrace of the YHA the hills I would be traversing were all too obvious, it would be a day of ups and downs. The weather just got better and better as the day wore on.

  A gentle walk up the lane brought me to Redheugh, a cluster of houses, Isaac Holden was born here in 1804 and baptised at Ninebanks church in 1806. The way followed a ridge across fields and through the remains of Keirsleywell lead mine, where he worked with his father and brother in the 1820s. At the road  I walked alongside the low Mohope Beck watching Sand Martins coming and going.

Redheugh.

Keirsleywell Spoil.

 

Malakoff Bridge.

Mohope Beck.

The bridge in Ninebanks crossed the larger West Allen River. Some steep steps came out on the higher road, where I diverted to visit some buildings of interest. First was the old Hearse House, built in 1856 after fundraising by Isaac. It wasn’t long after that Isaac died and was carried on the hearse to be buried in Allendale. The little museum was filled with an eclectic collection of objects relating to mining, funerals and tea. A great deal of information was displayed about the Holden family. Not to be missed if you are walking the trail.

  Along the lane is a terrace which was once Ninebanks school and Ninebanks church, St Marks, dating from 1764. A peaceful place for a short break.

  From then on I used ancient tracks through rough farmland, there were lambs everywhere. I crossed two old bridges below Dryburn which would have been used by lead carriers with their string of ponies going to the smelt mill in Allendale. Most of these old bridges have been washed away in floods.

  A road was crossed alongside High House Wesleyan chapel, now a private residence but the graveyard is still there. I had difficulty finding the path in the next group of fields, but received a friendly reception from a farmer’s wife and dogs when I wandered into their yard. She showed me a way and complained that the RofW hasn’t been maintained.

  After a few more difficult fields I was ready for a sit down and some lunch overlooking the valley.  There was a long stretch in Monk Woods high above Whitfield Hall and Church. The Whitfield  Estate belongs to the Blackett-Ord family, it was their moorland I tramped across yesterday and it is their woods I’m walking through today. Every hundred yards are pheasant feeders and the estate is very proud of its ‘sporting’ pheasant shooting, which I find abhorrent.

Baby pheasants, what a life.

I was glad to be away from the woods and on the final climb to take me to The East Allen valley. I passed limestone quarries and was in the heart of Curlew and Lapwing territory. Lovely open upland walking territory.

Heading down towards the river I passed Keenly Wesleyan Methodist Chapel established in 1750 after John Wesley had preached nearby.  It is said to be the oldest chapel in the world in continuous use.

  Without checking, I followed a very steep path down to a footbridge and steeply up the other side to find myself lost in field. I could see my mistake on the map and decided to follow the edge of fields until I could join up again without backtracking. This involved some risky crossing of barbed wire and then some very steep descending to reach the RofW by the river. The path alongside the  East Allen wasn’t straight forward with irritating diversions.