Category Archives: Pennines


Portsmouth to Towneley Park.

If you google Burnley to Portsmouth by bus you can imagine the result –  a ten hour journey to the south coast. Today’s more modest journey went like clockwork, leave home 9.45, park up at Towneley Park, 10.43 bus to Burnley bus station, 10.55 bus to Portsmouth [the one in Cliveger Gorge] and I was walking back into Lancashire by 11.30. I’m becoming a bit of Burnley Bus nerd. The weather today was perfect for a change.  A track climbed steeply from the main Calderdale road and headed into the hills, unusually it was unmarked. Roe deer ran before me and disappeared in the bracken, only their barking could be heard. This was steep climbing and I was soon looking back down into Calderdale and up to distant Stoodley Pike.

Once above a remote barn conversion a smaller path made a beeline for Heald Moor.  A rough track then led along the ridge to Thieveley Pike which was marked by an Ordnance Survey Pillar, 449m,  the highest point on the BW. This was the essence of open Pennine walking just me, skylarks and cotton grass.

Halfway along the ridge was a stone marker plaque who’s origin I cannot find, any ideas?


The extensive views were back to the Coal Clough Windfarm, down Calderdale to Stoodley Pike and The Peak District, Lancashire Moors, Hameldon Hill, distant Bowland and then Pendle and the Three Peaks and more of Yorkshire…

  A subsidiary ridge went over Dean Scout Rocks  which made a convenient lunch stop looking down into the Cliviger Gorge. A steep track descended through more sections of the Burnley Forest. Going under the railway I joined a section of the Pennine Bridleway, this turned out to be a delightful peaceful pastoral passage past old farms on what must be an ancient track. Ripe raspberries in the hedgerows were a bonus.

I was circling a hillside plantation named the Fireman’s Hat though I couldn’t see the resemblance, this has been made even worse by a communication tower which has somehow been allowed to be placed in this prominent natural position, money must have changed hands. I walked my way through Walk Mill and payed a quick visit to the Barcroft Hall a 17th century building. Interestingly there was of those old American caravans in the garden.

I then entered the extensive grounds of Towneley Hall and met the masses enjoying a sunny day, children and dogs included. There are paths and avenues everywhere. An ice-cream van by the bridge over the Calder River was doing a good trade and I couldn’t resist a cornet. A stroll  past the hall itself, note to visit in future, and then up a mature lime avenue to the gates on the main road and my car.


So I’d completed The Burnley Way, in more days than planned and in poor summer weather conditions but had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Met some lovely people along the way. Good varied walking with fascinating natural and industrial features along the way in an area not known for its walking. My photos don’t do it justice. It is well waymarked and the guide leaflets from Burnley Council clear and accurate. I had learnt a lot more of this area and I highly recommend.



Worsthorne to Portsmouth.

Rain all morning, once again the summer weather had conspired against me but rather than be inactive I opted for another short stage. My lunchtime arrival in Worsthorne coincided with a brightening but showers were still in the air, however I didn’t need waterproofs for the rest of the day. A flagged path across a field took me into Hurstwood described as a delightful Elizabethan village with attractive buildings – most seemed to be under renovation at present so I didn’t dally. A lane crossed the infant River Brun which I had come across a couple of days ago in Burnley centre. The now cobbled lane passed isolated farmhouses onto the moor, I pondered on the man-hours  needed to construct these old highways. Dropping down into Shebden Valley the reason for the lane became apparent – an extensive area of quarrying. Apparently this was for limestone extraction using hushes and what remained was piles of unwanted stone, the sheddings. I joined The Pennine Bridleway at the bridge but for some reason I was directed to a smaller path into the workings, this soon became indistinct and my wanderings were more and more erratic until I hit the Long Causeway road.  [Stay on the bridleway!] This straight road possibly dates back to the Romans and was used as a packhorse trail in the 18th century. It is characterised now by the Coal Clough Windfarm which it runs alongside, I remember this as one of the first in this area. From up here Pendle dominated the skyline to the north.  At a corner a farm track continues on the original line and I just followed this although the footpath supposedly takes to the field. Another isolated farm is passed and a lovely little building which would make a good bothy but more likely an expensive holiday cottage.

The path traverses above a wild clough and passes through plantations which are part of The Forest of Burnley a lottery funded scheme to create new forest around the area, I had noticed secveral others on these walks. Pathfinding through the new plantations is not always easy and waymarking could have better. I found myself on the top of a gritstone cliff, Pudsey Crag according to the map, a diversion was taken to view it from the valley. It looked worthy of climbing but is apparently out of bounds on private land. Deep wooded cloughs are entered as one progresses towards the Cliviger Gorge, occasional cottages appear out of nowhere – this is a secret place. Coming out of one of the cloughs towards Brown Birks farm I was confronted by a large brown bull right on the track, I was so overawed I didn’t even get a picture. Backtracking I picked up another footpath circumnavigating the field and with a bit of ingenuity safely avoided the bovine obstacle. I was now dropping into Cliviger Gorge and looking at the climb out on the otherside which will start my next stage. Looking down were the back to back terraces of mill villages Cornholme and Portsmouth. I jumped on the bus to take my me back to Burnley but found it pulled off the main road to visit some smaller villages and I surprisingly saw I was only a mile from my start so I was dropped off and walked into Worsthorne. Another day of discovery.


Briercliffe to Worsthorne.

Another shortened day to accommodate the weather. I was back at Queens Mill and no sign of it opening to highlight Britain’s last remaining steam mill engine. Mill streets led to allotments and hen houses on the edge of town. The Parish Lengthsman pulled up and switched off his engine for a chat. He had been watering flower displays and was now off to do some path strimming. Throughout history lengthsmen have been employed to keep parishes tidy and the post has been revived in recent years to provide on the ground local maintenance.  We found we had mutual friends in Longridge and our chat covered many topics, he didn’t seem in a rush to get to work and I’m never in a rush when local knowledge can be gained.

Eventually I crossed several field to arrive at the grounds of Happa [Horses and Ponies Protection Association] and their modern cafe, as you know I won’t willingly walk past a cafe so I found myself inside enjoying a good Americano. Others were tackling mammoth portions of fish and chips, the cafe has a loyal local following. As you would expect horsey types were in strong evidence.

Skirting horse enclosures and then fields full of inquisitive cows I then began  descending towards the Thursden Valley but became a little entangled in boggy grounds and barbed wire fences – the way marking could be better. The valley itself is like a lost world with a small brown peaty brook meandering along. A path of sorts pushes through the sedges with occasional clumps of purple orchids and lots of meadow sweet. Horsetails seem to be trying to affect a takeover in some areas.

I came out onto a road with steep lanes leading into it – I recognised the situation from when we used to drive over to Widdop for a climbing session. The road leading out of the valley always appeared steep and exposed with a car seemingly wrecked down the slope to the left. I was amused to see its rusting form still there today.

A steady plod up the wild road and a descent brought me into Yorkshire with views down to Widdop Reservoir and the crags we so often climbed on. Prominent at the right-hand end was Purgatory Buttress, home of some classic extreme climbs. I was always attracted to the Artificial Route up the front and despite its scary moves was often drawn back to it. Below it are some beautiful boulders for a more relaxing if not taxing time.

Off the road a little track headed through the heather towards a stream where I found an ideal lunch spot. A Blackcap settled in the vegetation in front of me. A boggy section headed across the valley to join a distinct bridleway which climbed above Widdop Reservoir and onto open moorland close to Gorple and Hare Stones. More reservoirs came into view and Stoodley Pike was prominent across the Calder Valley. This track seemed very isolated today not another soul in sight and a rather broody sky.

…not another soul insight…

Distant Stoodley Pike.

A family of chirpy Wheatears were running on ahead of me. Burnley soon came back into view and you realise how close to the town this circular walk keeps returning. Down to my left Hurstwood Reservoir appeared where the route heads to but rain was in the air so I just continued straight down the bridleway into Worsthorne , with some interesting houses, for the bus, Hurstwood can wait till next time.

Hurstwood reservoir.

As I came down the track a mountain biker was heading up which reminded me of a ride I did with my teenage son many years ago on a long loop to Hebden Bridge and back. That was just at the beginning of the mountain bike revolution.


While on the subject earlier in the day I passed signs for a MB charity challenge, in a very good cause, from the previous weekend – why have those responsible not removed these by now. I consider these as litter once there purpose is over. Shouldn’t have ended the day on a sour note.

Name and shame.







Towneley to Hapton.

I had chosen Towneley Hall as a convenient starting point for the 40mile Burnley Way which I’d broken down into three days’ walking. I’d obtained an excellent leaflet guide from Burnley Council which detailed the walk very well and it is marked on the 1:25,000 OS map OL21. I could see that a radial bus service would ease getting to and from daily start and finishing points, living so close it wasn’t worth paying for B and B.

A late start and a shortened day to let the morning’s rain abate. On the no 483 bus this morning was a man in full golfing regalia with trolley and bag so I knew we had arrived at Towneley Golf Club when he got off. I could have been anywhere but crossing the road I came across the first of the BW waymarks with the birds beak giving the direction up a little lane. I couldn’t make out the coke ovens which were supposed to be hereabouts but soon came across an art installation, part of the Wayside Arts Trail, a red brick kiln which is sadly falling apart or has been vandalised – a depressing thought. I realised I’d forgotten my camera so out came the phone.







Onto an affluent housing estate old tracks passed between properties, not the terraced housing one associates with Burnley, this is the west side of town.  Crossing a busy road I climbed up the hillside and was immediately looking down on the town and its moorland surroundings, this view was shared by the golfers I joined on an interesting looking course. I navigated my way between greens and across fairways without causing too much trouble and out onto the open fell. Up here apparently was the site of an Isolation Hospital serving smallpox and scarlet fever at the beginning of the 20th century and later TB patients, it was certainly isolated, how things have changed in a hundred years. Away to the left was the Singing Ringing Tree a well known sculpture I’ve visited on other occasions, its a shame it was not incorporated into the BW by following the Arts Trail. 

The Singing Ringing Tree from a previous visit.

Downhill in poor visibility towards Clowbridge Reservoir to cross another busy Pennine road linking the mill towns of the area, this one was heading to Rossendale I think. By the road were signs of previous mining activity with adits going into the hillside, this turned out to be the site of 19th century Wholaw Nook colliery. Four stones from the foundations have been carved by Ian Grant to represent Four Seasons in a Day, a reference to the local weather.







On the open moor track on the otherside of the road I met a couple from Bury who had been on the SW Coastal Path about the same time as myself so we swapped stories. They are hoping to backpack the BW in the near future. I found negotiating Nutshaw Farm a bit complicated with all the building work, I was not the only one as further on up a rough cart track was a delivery van with a puzzled driver trying to follow his satnav, I suggested he turned round while he could and sorted a route out for him on the good old fashioned 1:25,000 OS.

Approaching Nutshaw Farm.

A steady ascent above Clowbridge Reservoir and I was on Hambledon Hill, but not the trig point, with its various communication towers. Pendle Hill was visible to the north but south I couldn’t identify the moorlands. Even up here there was a burnt out car.

Looking back from Hameldon Hill over Clowbridge Reservoir to Thievely Pike.

Ahead was Great Hambledon but the BW doesn’t seem to bother with isolated summits, I was however drawn to a prominent cairn on the edge of the escarpment. This involved crossing boggy ground on a vague track with small stone quarries below me along the rim. The cairn gave me a chance to eat my sandwiches while watching the wind turbines to the east, these are always prominent from the A56 as you wind out of the Ribble Valley. Pendle was still misty and views into Bowland disappointing.

Towards Great Hambledon.



Murky Pendle above the Hapton Valley.

First of many windfarms.

Because I’d gone off route I had to find a way down the rocks which now encircled the moor and this proved tricky and time consuming. Once down there was a stretch of rough ground, an old firing range, an almost impregnable plantation and some irritating farm tracks. The plantation was one that had been developed with the help of lottery funding creating the Forest of Burnley project with many sites on the route. Then I was in Castle Clough Woods. I had been here before on The Hyndburn Way and was intrigued by the deep gorge apparently created by glacial meltwater. I was keen to explore further and left the BW once more and dropped into the gorge itself which has a small stream running down it. Heavily wooded steep slopes with quarried rocky outcrops must provide a diverse natural habitat – this is a hidden gem.

Deep in Castle Clough.

I managed to find a way out into Hapton playing fields and back to the station just as the weather was starting to improve.


TAME VALLEY WAY. 2 Stalybridge to Stockport.

The cobbled steps down into Stalybridge were icy, I crossed the River Tame and continued on the Huddersfield Canal. There is something about canals as they pass through towns, graffiti and rubbish unfortunately abound and here was no exception. The canal has been restored, no doubt at great expense, as part of a millennium project and should be a great asset to the town but sadly it provides a haven for ‘ne’er-do-wells’. Enough said, but we have moved on from…

The river and canal are in close proximity but the route favours the towpath just because of its existence. Crossing from one to the other I used The Alma road bridge constructed in the same year, 1854, as the first major battle of the Crimea War. On the outskirts the usual light industry flourishes and there always seems to be a background hum from the units reminiscent of the sound track from some old Sci Fi movie. Relief came at Portland Basin where the area has been gentrified with living accommodations  and boat trips. Here is a junction with the Ashton Canal heading into Manchester and the Peak Forest Canal coming from Derbyshire – what a network. I had a feeling of deja vu and it was only sitting down with the map I realised I was on The Cheshire Ring which I walked last year Rivers lose there character hemmed in and stagnating through towns and industry  but when I next joined the Tame it was in pastoral green fields. Amazingly these have been created from  what was the largest refuse tip in the area! All that tranquility was soon disturbed by  passing under the thunderous M67 whose six lane highway has replaced a two lane main road. What will we need in another 25 years?  The remaining few miles into Stockport were all surprisingly rural in country parks and close to the River Tame. The problem was with so many well trodden paths and poor signage one had to sometimes make an educated guess as to the route, keeping close to the river seemed to be a good idea. At the end of all these fields I emerged into Reddish Vale where the world and his dogs were congregating, there was a nearby carpark. The ducks were showing their skills at walking on water. A dismantled railway  gave fast walking, I had a train time in sight, before dropping to the River Tame for its finale. Under the M60, as it bypasses Stockport, one would never normally know that the Tame joins the Goyt at the end of its journey down from the Pennines. Having congratulated myself on reaching this point in good time I was dismayed by the length of traffic dodging streets up to the station to catch that train back to Preston. Another two day route completed in perfect winter conditions, apart from the dazzling low sun, and a good start to 2017.


TAME VALLEY WAY. 1 Denshaw to Stalybridge.

Denshaw, Delph, Dobcross, Uppermill, Mossley, Heyrod –  not names familiar to all. Its freezing and I’m stood outside the Junction Inn on the edge of the Pennines, think ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ country. I find a small waymark and set off down the Tame Valley Way. I love two day mini long distance walks, enough variety and an overnight stay. It’s taken me 5 difficult hours by public transport to arrive here. The metro tram took me out of Manchester to Oldham Mumps Interchange, a grand image which turned out to be a desolate street with a couple of bus stops. I escaped eventually on a local bus into the Pennines. Free at last to set off walking. The infant Tame is a trickle through flooded meadows and yet mills soon appear, they must have been water powered at one time.  Going through the yard of one mill I hear working machinery and looking inside see raw wool being fed into a carding machine and subsequently spun and died. Everywhere things were whirling.

I contemplate mill life in the last couple of centuries before most mills have been demolished or used as storage or one man garage workshops. Before conversion of the manager’s  house into a gated luxury property and the humble mill workers’ cottages into desirable commuter residences. There was ample evidence of those in today’s walk.

These valleys have almost a secret existence these days

Of course I had to get into conversation with an allotment and whippet devotee. One suddenly arrives along the river in Delph, a busy Pennine village of solid stone houses. The chip shop dates back to 1769 – not sure it was serving chips then. Disappointingly my ‘bag’ of chips for eating along the way comes in a polystyrene carton. I’m sure the central library/art gallery was a subject for one of Lowry’s paintings…Anyway onwards along the river through more small settlements with many reminders of their history.The Huddersfield Narrow Canal was joined on the outskirts of Uppermill and the Tame crossed on stepping stones to reach refreshments in the Saints Cafe tucked away in a cobbled weaving square. In the bustling town there is an evocative statue of Ammon Wrigley [1861-1946] a woolen mill worker who won fame for his prose.For most of the afternoon the Huddersfield Canal was followed with the River Tame in close attendance. Short stretches of abandoned railways were also used through reclaimed industrial land, gas works and mining areas. As Stalybridge is approached river, canal, road and railway are hemmed in together, even now the oppressive industrial atmosphere prevails and I was glad to escape to my B & B in Heyrod overlooking the valley.   During the clear day the temperature had not risen above 5° and was plummeting fast. A mistake was to walk north to south into the low winter sun which had me squinting all day. Presumably the same tomorrow.

Reflection of plane's jet stream in the canal.

                             Reflection of plane’s jet stream in the canal.


Beamsley Beacon and Round Hill.

Two ancients going their own way.

There will be lots of posts with Autumn colours at this time of year, I went abroad a week ago whilst the leaves were green and have returned to spectacular trees. But today I hardly saw a single tree on these bleak moors. The general visibility was poor also but a combination of The Pieman and The Rockman as companions was sure to provide an entertaining day.

I have driven below on the A59 hundreds of time and looked up at the craggy top but I had never ventured up there. By our roundabout stroll we found were reminders of ancient routes long before the present roads. There were numerous old mile/directional stones and many boundary stones suggesting lots of foot and mule traffic at one time. Tracks tend to connect and the places mentioned on the stones give some idea of destinations. What was the nature of peoples travel – monastic or trade routes?  – people certainly wouldn’t have come up here for pleasure. On the map there is also a Roman road shown but no trace of this was passed today. The whole area was rather boggy, an understatement, and progress was slow and must have been troublesome for those who passed before. There is no trace of paved mule routes here, whereas in many Pennine areas these are an outstanding feature. On the map there are mentions of ‘cup and ring’ stone markings but we didn’t notice any, didn’t look hard enough.

Enough of way stones – there didn’t seem to be many obvious paths…Up on the drier heather slope there had been some harvesting of the heather which was bailed up – to be used for what? There was yet another mystery, two detached boot soles.

Having traversed Round Hill [409m] we arrived at Beamsley Beacon itself [393m], a more popular destination being a short walk from the car park. The prominent Beacon was part of the chain of fires that could be lit as warnings during the Napoleonic wars, recent uses of these beacons have been more celebratory. The large stone cairn is thought to be a Bronze Age burial site but has never been excavated. The trig. point bares a memorial to a crashed Lancaster Bomber crew from the Royal Canadian Air Force killed 5th November 1945.Will have to come back for the views.