A calm sunny day out of the blue. A day that shouldn’t be wasted. Cycling will be better for me than all that weight-bearing walking on my dodgy knee. Yes it has officially become dodgy. Most people parked up on the front at Fleetwood are content to sit in their cars with the heater on, gazing out across the Wyre Estuary to Morecambe Bay. Somehow the statue of the waiting family took on a more poignant significance as the nation waits for news of Nicola Bulley who has vanished higher up the Wyre at St. Michaels.
In a sombre mood I pedal off along the seafront, Rossall, Cleveleys, Bispham, North Shore, The Golden Mile, the Pleasure Beach and South Shore. All familiar landmarks of the Fylde Coast at Blackpool. There are few people about, despite the sun it is still chilly. Mainly dog walkers. I eat my sandwich at Squires Gate, I’ve come far enough and turn around to do it all again in reverse. This is a favourite ride of mine, flat all the way with lots of interest and all that good ozone and vitamin D producing light.
The peaceful winter promenade.
Mary’s Shell in the tide. The Ogre was under water – more of them and the Mythic Coast another time.
The tower silently watching.
A Ringed Plover? posing. Not a grouse in sight.
I stop briefly to chat to a fisherman casting into the sea from the shingle beach, it’s high tide. Dabs and cod could be on the menu tonight but the only catches I witness are seaweed. A patient sport angling.
What’s for supper?
That was it really. All quiet on the western front.
Down on the River Wyre in St. Michael’s a tragic drama is transpiring, a 45-year-old local lady, Nicola Bulley, has gone missing whilst walking her dog by the river. You will have seen it on the national news, the trauma her family are going through as the days pass, without resolution, doesn’t bear thinking about.
The River Wyre comes out of the Bowland Hills above Abbeystead, the Tarnbrook Wyre and the Marshaw Wyre join forces there and head off into the Fylde to reach the sea at Knott End/Fleetwood. A dramatic journey. I walked the whole of the Wyre Way in 2014, can’t believe it is so long ago. Today I’m parked up in a lay-by alongside the Marshaw Wyre at Tower Lodge as suggested by Walk 11 in Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone guide book, exploring these two upper Wyres.
I’ve just driven through the ‘Trough’ from Dunsop Bridge, a way through the hills beloved of NW Lancashire cyclists. There were plenty this morning, the forecast being good with sunshine and little wind. In fact the last time I came this way was on my cycle way back in 2014, I remember it being a tough ride in this direction. I would need an electric bike I think for such exploits now. I have previously walked a version of this route in reverse, again in 2014.
I thought the lay-by might have been full by the time I turned up at 11am, but there were only a couple of cars. Boots on and immediately a steady uphill begins. By chance, I’m heading into The Duke Of Westminster’s territory once more. I was disparaging about grouse moors in my recent post on Clougha Pike, so today I start optimistically with only healthy thoughts of the great outdoors. I can’t believe it the first WW stone marker, of which there were many better examples along the way, depicts a rifle and a grouse. Condescending bastards.
Putting that aside I march over the hill to views of the Clougha Pike/Ward’s Stone ridge above the Tarnbrook Wyre. I’m glad I’m not going up there today – it’s a tough long walk, although the Duke’s new motorway had made it easier in parts. We used to go up there to climb/boulder on Thorn Crag before it was open access, often resulting in being forcibly ejected. The CRoW act of 2000, despite its limitations, has been a gentle step forward. I cross the infant Tarnbrook Wyre without much thought to its journey from up on Ward’s Stone.
The last time I came through Tarnbrook, an old farming settlement at the end of the road, I got talking to an elderly gent, born and bred there and the last remaining permanent resident. (his family checked up with him every day). I doubt be is still here as the properties all seem to be in the process of modernisation – for rich incomers or holiday lets? A lot of history possibly lost.
Turning my back to the hills I make my way across multiple fields westwards. Yes the stiles are rickety and not easy to spot in the low light. A few adjustments are needed after my phone GPS mapping is consulted, in the past I would have been much more careful with map and compass.
A friendlier waymarker.
Abbeystead is reached without too much trouble and the Tarnbrook Wyre, (header photo) now more sizeable is crossed at Stoops Bridge, a popular parking area. The hamlet is the centre of the Duke’s Abbeystead estate with the mock Elizabethan estate offices, cottages and old stables.
Gated entrance to the Duke’s Abbeystead House.
My path takes off from the road at the far end of the village, taking me high above the Reservoir and then down below the dam and a footbridge over the Wyre. The reservoir is silting up and there is a constant cascade of water over the beautifully curved dam. All very dramatic.
The concessionary path alongside the water is in a dreadful state. Too many feet on the muddy terrain. There is an alternative higher path to the south via Marl House and Hawthornthwaite, longer but more sustainable. It takes an age of slippery sliding to reach dry land again near the Stoops Bridge parking.
The Tarnbrook meets the Marshaw Wyre.
Then the parkland of Abbeystead House, the raison d’être of the area, is traversed with tantalising views of the enormous property. Lots of fields and stiles often high above the Marshaw Wyre. I must have fallen asleep and come out onto the road well off route. My map shows it all.
The Marshaw Wyre is then followed closely back up the Trough road to those well known pines alongside the river. Tower Lodge was a welcome sight. I was getting tired and have measured my route as 8.5 miles as opposed to Mark’s 7.25. Some of that was me getting lost.
I have reservations about this walk, yes stunning scenery in parts but lots of field stiles to negotiate, needing careful navigation. The section to the south of Abbeystead Reservoir is horrendous, muddy and awkward. I think the route would be more balanced starting in Abbeystead, with an option to take the difficult reservoir 1.5 mile loop. The road up Marshaw was tedious at the end of the day, it would be so much more enjoyable early in a walk that gradually gained height and then brought you back anticlockwise down to Abbeystead.
Most people climb Nicky Nook, north of Garstang, for the view; Lancashire’s coastal plain, Morecambe Bay and the southern Lakes. I’ve been up it many times and that was my intention today, the sun was shining, and the weather set fair. On parking, I did a time check on St. Peter’s Church spire, 10.45. Yes, this is the familiar spire seen as you speed up the M6. Built in 1878 by the well known Lancaster architects Paley and Austin.
I’d walked a few hundred yards when it started to rain. I’m on the Wyre Way again. By then I was alongside the squat Wesleyan Methodist Church, built in 1843 when Methodism was strong in the area, there was no pub in the village. Here was a map of the three churches in Scorton – the next, the catholic St. Mary and St. James, 1861, was just up the lane. It seems half hidden behind the substantial priest’s house.
The three churches in order of appearance…
I’d become distracted by church history. Time to get going on my walk, another from Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone Lancashire guide. Crossing the motorway, a couple asked me the way to Nicky Nook – I pointed them in the right direction even though that was not my route today, I was going round the back on quiet lanes. Conversation drifted to the weather, we are British, after all. She postulated that as we were close to Morecambe, the tide was probably coming in – hence the rain. I’m still pondering on that.
Going my own way, I passed by the Wyresdale Estate offering a café, wedding venue, fishing, woodworking, personal training and much more. I’m not totally comfortable with commercialism of the countryside. Brought up tramping freely on the moors, wild camping and nature watching, it doesn’t fit easily into my psyche. But judging by the number of SUV’s parked up, there is profit to be made through nature.
The rest of the morning passed as I used public ways around the back of Nicky Nook. But trouble was brewing when a large gate appeared across the track I was following, a way through was grudgingly available to the side. Timid walkers may have turned back at that point, which was probably the intention of the owners. This farm then took it upon themselves to divert the footpath away from their property, now a country residence. The sign said the right of way still existed through their yard, although that was contradicted by a sign saying guard dogs running loose. I felt pressurised to follow the diversion, which in fact turned out to be quite pleasant. But the point is that the landowners rather than pay for an official diversion, which they may not be granted, act in an almost threatening way. ‘We are rich, and we don’t want you on our land!’ I am concerned that Lancs County Council, funded by the public, are apparently complicit with this outdated view. An update to Mark’s guide is needed.
Rant over and I soon made good progress on my quiet way into the foothills, I still hadn’t met another walker. You are right on the edge of the Bleasdale Fells up here. I surprised myself at the speed I reached the trig point on Nicky Nook. It was here that I met with the steady stream of people walking up from Scorton, header photo. Additional adornments are starting to appear on trig points which affront my personal sensitivity. I would have removed them if I’d been alone, but it felt churlish to do so in the company of the other eager summiteers. There was little view, it was freezing, so I quickly turned around and set off down to Grizedale.
Edge of Bleasdale.
The artificial reservoir looked black and barren, but the valley lower down, with its sparkling beck and native trees, was a delight. I struck up to Higher Lane, popular with hired dog walkers, Slean End and through the fields to the road where I’d parked. Just then, the sun came out.
I had time for a good coffee from the Covid Citroën parked up in the village.
Sunday and I take the easy way out again as lunchtime comes around. I pick another walk from Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone Lancashire guide. Not wishing to drive far, I find a low level circuit from Great Eccleston in the Fylde. It turns out to be one of the flattest routes in the county, with only a few feet of ascent on the return leg. It was good to get this rural walk out of the way before the cattle are put out into the fields.
My plan when I revisited this book was to maybe do one walk a week as an incentive to get me walking farther, but somehow I’m up to number four in just over a week. So far I’m impressed with Mark’s style, he has chosen well, and his directions have been spot on – suitable for the casual walker. Today’s walk was complicated in places, and yet I didn’t put a foot wrong.
I find a place to park in the main street only to see it is an electric charging point. Having moved the car I walk out of the village past the old pinfold, on across the main road and down a well-used, dog walkers mostly, path to the river Wyre. Here is a fairly unique private toll bridge next to the Cartford Inn. The ‘cart – ford’ prior to the original C18th bridge. In the grounds of the inn are modern staycation ‘pods’. I recognise these from a walk I found for myself last winter, or was it the one before – the pandemic seems to have confused my recall.
Easy walking along the riverbank to a footbridge where I crossed to the road near the extensive and impressive, possibly haunted, grounds of White Hall. I often wonder who owns these multi-million pound properties – Russian oligarchs?
Using farm tracks, I joined The Wyre Way, linking farms in this flat rural landscape. This is the way I should have come on my disastrous attempt on this section when I almost drowned and then lost my map, leaving me with no alternative but to follow the road.
The guidebook said, “head for the grain silo” and it was correct, the silo stood out across the field, one of the tallest I have seen. In the distance were the Bleasdale fells, everywhere else was flat, a strange landscape for one accustomed to the hills.
Turnover Hall was next. There were duck ponds with piles of grain to fatten the birds before they are shot. The Hall is surrounded by hundreds of caravans, whether for sale or in storage I couldn’t make out. Oh, and just for good measure, the obligatory junk waiting to be recycled.
I rejoin the Wyre embankment and walk into St. Michael’s, arriving at the road bridge near the chocolate box cottages and the Medieval church across the way.
You know I like an interesting church when I see one, this one is Grade I listed. It is thought a church existed here, near a safe river crossing, from 640AD. The Domesday book mentions a church on the same site. The present structure dates from the C15th. When you enter the church, the most obvious and unusual sound is the loud ticking of a clock, the giant pendulum hanging on one side of the tower. There are two naves and a northern Chapel. This Butler chapel has older Medieval stained-glass fragments, seemingly randomly incorporated into the windows. In the same window is a C16th Flemish sheep shearing scene. In the west wall is a striking modern window depicting the parable of the ‘sower’. Outside is a ‘Norman’ door and an ancient mounting stone. In the graveyard are three unusually shaped graves, these are the ‘Soldiers Stones’ dating from 1643 when a Spanish ship was wrecked on the Wyre estuary and thought to be for Spanish sailors.
Time to move on, and I take a lane heading towards a large modern house. Whoever built it had visions of grandeur now biting the dust, the house being an empty shell.
The rest of the afternoon I follow drainage dykes across the landscape, eventually to rejoin the Wyre for the last time before re-entering Great Eccleston. The two bulls face each other across the high-street, with a period Austin7 on show.
That’s quite a lot for a lazy Sunday walk in this quiet corner of west Lancashire.
Wednesday 2nd December. 6.5 miles. Great Eccleston.
Great Eccleston is a village in the Fylde, that often gloomy and flat area of Lancashire not known for its walking. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book so has ancestry. It is known locally for its traditional shops, good pubs, a weekly market and its annual agricultural show which incorporates tractor pulling competitions, a niche motor sport. I parked up at noon on a sunny day, one needs the bright sun on these featureless landscapes. There was a bit of a market in the main street. I noticed one of the pubs has closed. There is an old pinfold down the street.
I left by Leckonby House, named after a wealthy local who bankrupted himself and ended up In Lancaster Prison. There was a C18th dovecote strangely isolated in the next field.
The St. Annes church at Copp was a prominent landmark up the road. It was established here in 1723 halfway between Gt. Eccleston and Elswick as a chapel of ease for St. Michaels. Nearby is a local primary school and opposite the old schoolhouse. It seems odd that the school is so isolated but I suppose it followed the church originally.
Elswick down the road is another small village on the road to Blackpool famous for its ice cream parlour. Also tucked next to the United Reformed church is an old chapel with a date stone of 1671 when this area was a centre for Nonconformity. The chapel is rather plain and has a house built onto it, it is now used as a hall for the adjacent church.
It was time to take to the boggy fields just as a hail storm blew through giving rainbows over the distant Bowland Fells.
Another stretch of lanes led towards drainage and flood defences. Here I got tangled up in barbed wire fences obstructing the right of way, later contacting the local authority they already knew of the problem. Surely the fencing contractors should be made aware of the need for stiles in the appropriate places. At last, I was on the embankment and following the Wyre downstream, a popular route for dog walkers. Walking around the loop was fast and easy which was needed as the sun was beginning to set. I had time to look at the Cartford toll bridge and the adjacent pub which has been modernised since I used to drink here 40 years ago. More rainbows appeared with the passing showers.
Being back here reminded me of a rather disastrous day walking the start of the Wyre Way.
The lights were on when I arrived back in Great Eccleston’s marketplace.
Monday, November 16th. 9miles. Scorton/Dolphinholme.
The river Wyre takes a sinuous route between Scorton and Dolphinholme and you can see from the map many fishing lakes along the way. Years ago it would have been a different scene with leats, millraces, serving the numerous mills in the valley. My ‘guides’ for today live in the area and know an awful lot of relevant history. The last walk with Peter and Denise was a couple of winters ago when we followed and traced the Lancaster Canal from Preston to Kendal.
After driving 14 miles, within my 15mile limit, I meet up as the one other socially distanced person. We are all following the rules now, even Boris has to. Off we go along lanes close to the motorway passing the farm of a close friend, sadly departed 5 years ago, where my family of cats originated from. It is eerily deserted today.
My cats’ homeland.
We pick up the Wyre Way which seems to have changed since I walked it a few years ago. The footbridge over the motorway has been dismantled, apparently the path goes under now. The caravan site we walk through has expanded dramatically but of course nobody is allowed to stay at present. The big attraction is the fishing lakes established from old gravel pits, stocked with carp, pike, bream, tench, roach and perch. They don’t have a sympathetic feel for a path. A better stretch alongside the Wyre brought us to a bridge that used to lead to Wyreside Hall. Further along is the old Coreless water mill with its restored wheel.
We come out into Lower Dolphinholme. Peter points out the old mill warehouse, now apartments. The road down to the bridge used to come to a ford and when it was built up the doors to the cottages became smaller and smaller. The mill manager’s and mill owner’s houses are prominent and there is a redundant gaslight on the corner. The large mill here was originally for worsted manufacture and was one of the first mills to have its own gas works to light the mill and village. Apparently behind the private walls is evidence of the gas containers. Peter knew all about this but for you a good history is really worth consulting – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1466557
Mill owner’s House.
As we leave the village I’m taken on a slight detour to visit the flue and chimney up the hill. It was built as a dual structure one for the gas and one for the steam from the updated mill.
We were going up Waggoners Lane an obvious reference to the mill’s transport and then into Tinkers Lane, another reference to the past. This led past Belvidere House with its unusual hexagonal attached tower. Up here we were on the edge of the Bowland Hills and sheep were the only animals in the fields, subsistence farming. We came to a crossroads at Street where the Roman Road from Ribchester to Galgate was supposed to have run.
Now back onto paths alongside becks and fishing lakes. We saw a roe deer pirouette across a stream and vanish into the woods. It was muddy going. We skirted the grounds of Wyreside Hall, a large C18 pile which seems to be undergoing renovations/extensions – maybe a hotel or wedding venue? The local couple we met leading a thoroughbred racing horse didn’t know what was afoot.
The grounds of a farm and barn complex felt unwelcoming – high walls and vicious barking dogs. Coming out onto a road we parted company with Denise who took the direct route home to hopefully put the kettle on., I wanted to go through the grounds of Wyresdale Park which I had noted on my recent visit to Nicky Nook and Peter was all too ready to give me some more history. The hall was the work of Lancaster architect Paley in the mid C19, better known for his churches, in a Gothic Revival design and over the years has been adapted to its present state as a recreational facility. Cafés, craft centres, camping pods, weddings, playgrounds and fishing are all on offer or at least they normally would be. I couldn’t see the hall but know where to drive through in future for a peep.
Wyresdale Park’s photo.
We strolled through Scorton with its iconic motorway spire. There once was a large cotton mill here, and we could see the line of the millrace now in a modern development. It was easier to walk along the road for a while rather than the soggy fields. I was then shown the lodges for the mill at Cleveley Bridge. We then followed the line of another mill race coming from the Wyre some distance away. Apparently in the early years of the C20 there used to be a series of commercial fisheries along here with water siphoned off the mill race. I had no idea where I was but soon we were climbing up to Shireshead, past the little chapel, now a recording studio, and along the lane for that cup of tea.
I was kicking myself by lunchtime today. The forecast was for rain but there was hardly any and now the sun was shining. Could easily have had a meet up with friends for a day’s walk. My new boots haven’t arrived yet, tomorrow?, so walking in trainers I need to stay on dry ground which is difficult around here at the moment. A cursory look at the map and I had inspiration for a quick afternoon’s outing on lanes around Barnacre, a rural area to the south and east of Garstang.
In less than half an hour’s drive I’m parked by another deserted looking pub, the Kenlis Arms. originally an 1856 hunting lodge,
The walk itself is on quiet lanes on the edge of the Bowland Hills passing a few farms and lots of sheep.
White sheep of the family.
My first real objective is the Church of All Saints, yet another designed by Austin and Paley of Lancaster, 1905. Set in a peaceful woodland area its red roof stands out across the fields and its tower is castle-like. A lane takes me down to cross the motorway and main railway line.
Forge Lane passes the old forge where the family are splitting logs with a hired machine, looks great fun.
The lane continues down to a ford on the swollen Wyre but fortunately there is a nearby footbridge. This whole low-lying area is part of the local flood defences when water can be diverted into the fields to reduce the flow downstream. I walk through the Millennium Green past the hydraulic weirs for controlling the flow of the Wyre. It must be quite a sight to see the floodplain filling up. I’ve been this way before on The Wyre Way.
Millennium Green with a misty Nicky Nook in the background.
A diversion into Garstang’s High Street highlights several interesting buildings.
The old grammar school, C18th.
The old Town Hall. 1760.
I walk over the twin arched bridge on the Wyre and a little later drop down to the Lancaster Canal for about a mile of quiet towpath back to my car.
A walk snatched from nothing and dry feet at the end of it.
The green area on the above map is the County of Lancashire which as you may well know has, as of this last weekend, gone into the highest Covid-19 restrictions – Tier 3. So my wanderings in the foreseeable future will be solely in the Red Rose County. There are far worse places to be. As it happens I was already planning to visit Abbeystead today for a walk plucked out of Jack Keighley’s Cicerone ‘Walks in the Forest of Bowland’ guide which seemed to have several points of interest. I’ve been following quite a few from this guide in the last weeks and have been impressed by their quality. The forecast is for cloud so a low level walk suits.
I arrived at the carpark at 12noon to find it full, I’d half expected that. Fortunately a couple of early birds were just finishing their walk so I grabbed their spot. The River Wyre has two initial tributaries, The Marshaw and The Tarnbrook. I started my walk alongside the latter and soon came to the former. My curiosity had me bashing through the undergrowth to find the confluence of the two – a Dr. Livingstone experience. The two small streams meet and soon the River Wyre takes on a more majestic flow. Satisfied I go back to where I had started, it’s going to one of those days.
Marshaw Wyre bridge.
Meeting of the Waters
The Wyre flows on.
I took some photos of these large plants growing profusely along the banks – I don’t know their name? I thought the leaves were too large for Japanese Knot weed but I’m not so sure now.
My path left the Wyre Way and shot up some steep stone steps which kept on going. Eventually fields followed to come out onto the road at Hawthornthwaite with the fell road heading across to the Trough of Bowland just above me. All around were the Bowland Fells looking a bit dismal today.
The mole catcher has been working overtime.
A farm track took me past Marl House and then into open fields with no obvious track. For this walk the guide states “A somewhat complex route requiring careful reference to map and directions” Well I was soon searching for the next stile and essential footbridge across a formidable little gorge, Cam Brook. Walking up and down my GPS didn’t seem to be helping. I persisted with my search and finally found a new looking bridge across but not where shown on my map. Anyhow, I was across and climbing fairly new steps but at the top where I should have gone right to an old mill a new pheasant fencing blocked my way and shepherding me upwards. I tried an open space in a hollow but at its end a high gate. I could see no path continuing, so I decided to head for a barn shown on the map and follow the track from there. As I walked on I spotted three walkers coming the other way towards where I should have been. After pleasantries with them, I set forth or was that back, determined to find the mill ruins. After a couple of stiles I came across them in the woods, sad reminders of a bygone time. It had been a water driven cotton spinning mill until destroyed by fire in 1848. Associated workers’ cottages were disappearing nearby. That hollow I had been walking in half an hour ago was in fact the old empty mill pond.
Satisfied I returned to pass again the cheerful three sat on a log having lunch.
Last of the summer wine.
Now I knew where I was going – Little Catshaw 1763 and Catshaw Hall 1678. I passed through here before with Sir Hugh on our straight line walk from Longridge to Arnside in November 2018.
The steep track led down over a sparkling side stream and to the Wyre in its heavily wooded valley. A sturdy bridge was crossed before stone steps went straight up the opposite hill to Lentworth Hall. These tracks must be centuries old linking farms and maybe going to the church where I was heading.
More stone steps.
A gate at the top of a field, suitably full of sheep, admitted me into the churchyard of Christ Church, The Shepherds’ Church. [The gate has its own story which I thought was a joke at first] The church dates back to the C14th but was rebuilt in 1733 and a spire added to its tower later. Its stained-glass windows depict Biblical shepherd scenes, these would have been better appreciated from the interior but it was locked. In the porch are rows of hooks supposedly for visiting shepherds to hang their crooks. Above the door is an old inscription – ‘O ye shepherds hear the word of the Lord‘
I found a bench to sit on for lunch, it was 2.30 after all. Next to me was a war memorial with a thought-provoking inscription perhaps aimed at the agricultural soldier.
My next objective was a Friends Meeting House and Quaker burial ground up the hill at Brook House. As well as the meeting house there had been a school and schoolmasters house in this little complex of buildings, now residential conversions. The graveyard with its simple uniform headstones was accessible and was a very calming place. Apparently the Friends Meeting House In Lancaster has use of it but there didn’t appear to be many recent burials.
I was now quite high on the northern flanks of the Wyre Valley but views were limited by the weather. More fields took me past Chapel House Farm with its barking dogs and over a rickety stile to the road at Summers House.
Then a walk across rough country in worsening light to Grizedale Bridge over the Tarnbrook Wyre. A cart track was followed back to Stoops Bridge.
Before I got my car I had a wander into Abbeystead itself. All the C19th buildings are now part of the Duke of Westminster’s vast estate and built in an Elizabethan style. The big house is hidden from view. The hamlet is named after an Abbey founded here in the C12th by Cistercian monks from Furness. It didn’t last long and was soon abandoned.
All I needed was a bit of sunshine to bring out the Autumn colours.
My last trip to Nicky Nook was in February just before Storm Ciara and, without realising it, before the more devasting storm Covid.
I grew up with Enid Blyton – The Famous Five and the even better Secret Seven. Maybe my sense of adventure was instilled into my developing psyche from these innocent tales. I’ll not spoil this post with any historical racial or sexual criticism of her works.
Anyhow today there were six of us – the safe six of these Covid times.
From http://www.gov.uk When meeting friends and family you do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) you must not meet in a group of more than 6, indoors or outdoors. This is against the law and the police will have the powers to enforce these legal limits, including to issue fines (fixed penalty notices) of £200, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400.
We met up at a secluded carpark down single track lanes. The other five had travelled from South Manchester and Cheshire and had invited me along for no particular reason, the only link being blog posts we mutually follow.
Introductions completed we set off suitably distanced.
Everyone took photos of this unusual School Bus Stop. I don’t know which school or which bus but there can’t be many pupils.I didn’t pay much attention as to which way we went but we passed through several typical Lancashire farms and I have to admit the waymarking was on the whole excellent. With our intrepid leader, follow the orange cap – phreerunner in another guise, striding out confidently we were soon onto the fell road skirting the wild Bowland Fells. We then dropped back into farming country and a lane where we came across a Wyresdale shooting party, ‘ducks and partridges’ season apparently. I met up with an acquaintance from Longridge who takes his dogs along for retreaving. they were heading off for lunch at the hall. No invites for us but there was a bench for a coffee break. My new friends excelled at this point by bringing out some homemade delicacies, Paul’s Fridge Cake was my favourite but Martin’s Chocolate Thingy was a close second. [My regular walking partners please take note – I expect better in future.]
Coffee bench. In memory of a beekeeper.
A steady climb past a false summit and we were at the trig point, repainted since I was last here but sadly graffitied by the ‘was here’ brigade. Despite the biting wind we enjoyed views in all directions. Someone spotted the Isle of Man, someone else Blackpool tower and even North Wales. My pictures fail to show them well.
Leaving the crowds and doubling back on ourselves we took the steepish, but not the steepest, path through invasive rhododendrons into the delightful Grize Dale valley. Everyone was impressed by the path alongside first the reservoir and then the bubbling stream.
Another rememberance bench on cue signalled the lunch stop. I had to pass on the offered goodies.Fields took us into Scorton passing by the parish church whose spire is a well known M6 landmark. Before long we were back at the carpark. An enjoyable stroll in Lancashire’s finest. I didn’t take as many photos as usual as I was too busy chatting but you can see more in Martin’s post and also read the true story.
First a moan… The Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 ( the CROW Act, not the crow we are following ) gives a public right of access to land mapped as ‘open country’ known as open access land. A large area of the Bowland Fells are so designated which should give some degree of freedom to roam on the moorlands. However not all is as it seems. The 1:25,000 OS maps highlight open access land with orange shading but the areas do not always link up with the public rights of way, creating a problem of reaching the access area in the first place. There are actually some ‘islands’ of access land with no access! This morning we are faced with one of these dilemmas, the lane back to Arbour is private for the first kilometre [red dots] so the logical way into the access area is denied legally. Who came up with these walker unfriendly ideas? I’m afraid those powerful landowners had too much influence when the plans were being drawn .Anyhow here we are back at the Arbour shooting lodge in its remote setting, ready for another ‘up and over’. Today we have to climb over Stake House and Grizedale Fells. There is still no sign of the rhino. We take the opportunity of some shelter by the lodge to divest of some clothing before the sweaty climb. A vague track is lost and then found as we puff up the steep slope alongside a series of very posh shooting butts. This track in fact takes us to the unmarked summit of Stake House, 402m, where we can admire views of Morecambe Bay, the Clougha Pike, Grit Fell, Ward’s Stone and Wolfhole Fell group with the Trough Of Bowland spread out below. We take a compass bearing to a pond which should be near the start of the track at Grizesdale Head. We are in the middle of a wilderness here though the going is better than we’d anticipated, short heather and not too much bog. The weather is changeable!
A hazy Morecambe Bay with another storm coming in.
Wilderness – on a compass bearing.
Out of nowhere a gate in the boundary fence appears and this gives us easy access to the landrover track we are relying on to take us off the moors. We do so in swoops down the hillside as the weather takes a turn for the worse, wind and hail. At the road we are glad to hide behind a wall for lunch and watch the lazy antics of some contractors trying to offload fence posts. I do not envy their work outside in these conditions.
Opposite is a private lane to Catshaw Farms which is right on our route line, we wave enthusiastically at farm workers who pass us but nobody seems bothered by our presence. Once at the large farm complex we are back on public rights of way. Catshaw Hall Farm dates from the 17C, grade II listed with mullioned windows. There was work going on today.Muddy fields drop down towards the River Wyre where many trees are down from recent storms. At a side stream the path has been washed away leading to some undignified bum sliding to reach the newly reconstructed footbridge. The bridge over The Wyre is made of sturdier timbers. I realise have been here before.
Steep slippy steps bring us into fields belonging to Lentwoth Hall, now divided into apartments.
The final lane with ‘walking’ trees.
This whole area of Abbeystead is part of the Grosvenor estate owned by the Dukes Of Westminster. It holds the record for the biggest grouse bag in a day. On 12 August 1915, 2,929 birds were shot by eight shooters. We have survived the day through their estate and will carry on no doubt to trespass further estates on our straight line. I’m glad we finished when we did as the weather became atrocious, it’s the first day of winter tomorrow.
A beautiful sunrise and minus 5° temperatures dragged me out of bed. After yesterday’s experimental stroll I was still able to put one foot in front of the other. Time to get going.
Almost to the year Sir Hugh and I were walking around the Fylde on The Wyre Way. Having walked from Fleetwood to Rossall we cut across country to the River Wyre itself to complete the route on a dismal December day. Today, a not to be missed sunny one, with temperatures struggling to reach zero I was back: parked possibly illegally in Rossall School with the intention of walking 10 miles to South Shore terminus and catching the tram back. As a get out I could catch the tram at virtually any point if I was struggling. Once on the promenade I realised the possible foolishness of this venture, the path was an ice rink even the dogs, which were outnumbering people, were skating about. Out came the walking poles to give me some security, I was here for some easy flat walking to test my hip not to fall and break something.
The sea played little part in today’s walk: the tide was out, the waves flat and the sombre December weather blurred the horizon. So I could concentrate on the immediate surroundings of the promenade. Inland to start was dreary housing and apartments, retirement ‘I do like to be by the sea’ places. All very forgettable. But the new Clevelys promenade is all curves and a pleasure to explore.