I arranged a walk with my son today whist he is off work and I took him on a repeat of one of his early childhood walks of which he had no recollection – the classic Nicky Nook circuit from Scorton.
This involves parking near the local parish church, St. Peter’s, famous for its steeple, a landmark visible from the M6 going north. The time was 3.00.
We didn’t mess about on field paths low down, just walked up the quiet lanes until there was access into GrIze Dale. I always enjoy the stroll up this deep wooded valley, today there was only a trickle of water in the beck. The Grizedale Reservoir was the lowest I have ever seen it.
Walking up the gentle side of the hill we started to meet more people, but generally the place was deserted.
That’s not the top.
We stopped at the freshly painted trig point to take in the views over the Bowland hills, the motorway snaking north, Morecambe Bay and the Fylde. That is why most people come up here.
Down the steep side and into Scorton where we take the lane to the church whose clock now says 5.30.
An innovative sign.
Time for a beer and a Chinese meal back in Garstang. He still didn’t remember the childhood walk but enjoyed the excursion, it’s good to share.
There are few photographs and no maps in this post, I’m sworn to secrecy.
Any climber will admit to you that if he comes across a cliff face that apparently hasn’t been climbed on he keeps it very much to himself until he has climbed all the routes or at least the ones he is capable. Climbing lore is full of Crag X’s. I’ve known climbers spend hours on Google Earth trying to spot unknown crags. The protagonists will go to all lengths to ensure their apparent rivals don’t come across the location. Leaking the wrong grid reference or the wrong county if they think they could be robbed of the new route’s kudos. Talk of going to Wales this weekend when in fact they are sneaking into the Lake District. There are tales of car chases to try and follow the new routers to their new crag. Many a secret has however unfortunately slipped out over a few, too many, beers on a Friday night.
New routes on an already well climbed out crag are more difficult to hide before completion and there are many tales of rivals stepping in and ‘pinching’ the route from under the noses of the originator. A nonclimber will say isn’t the rock available to all, there are no property rights. But if a team have spent hours if not days cleaning, and in these times on certain crags placing expensive protection bolts, then they feel they have an unwritten right to first go. There was always a certain climber’s ethic and code protecting this ethos.
The first ascentionist’s list in climbing guide books is always of interest, if not heated debate in some circumstances. There is a wealth of tradition and history contained within. The top climbers satisfied with a select list of quality climbs to their name. Others have produced a plethora of named routes of dubious quality that rarely see anyone else climbing.
To be honest most of, if not all, the decent climbable rock on our small island has been identified. You just need to take a look at UK Climbing’s map to see that even the smallest and most esoteric pieces of rock have been climbed on. However, in recent years the popularity of bouldering, smaller rocks without ropes, has broadened the perception of what is possible away from the traditional areas.
I’ve modestly developed a few rather grotty quarries on Longridge Fell, non are popular but occasionally someone comments on a good route which is satisfying.
I remember a walk, 45 ago, up the Croasdale Valley one winter’s day looking at some craglets, Bull Stones, marked on the OS map. (Aren’t we lucky to have this fantastic mapping source, the envy of the world.) There was lots of rock but little of it high enough for roped climbing as was the norm then. I dismissed it. Step forward 20 years and the sport of bouldering has mushroomed. Every boulder, no matter how small, can be climbed by a variety of ways with just your rock boots and chalk bag, no rope required, Bouldering mats, a safety pad to soften your falls appeared later. That blurred vision of Bull Stones resurfaced, and I mentioned to my climbing partner Batesyman the possibilities up there.
The next weekend we were hiking up there, dodging the gamekeepers, and like kids in a sweetshop climbing everything we could. Bouldering mats were purchased and our boldness multiplied. Over several months we systematically climbed and charted over 300 problems on the extensive edges. M (see below) himself joined in on some new routing. Thankfully the 2004 CRoW act gave access to many previously forbidden upland areas, particularly in the Bowland Hills, a bastion of grouse shooting. ( by the way they will be at it this week – the glorious 12th has passed) I produced a PDF guide to the edge, and it has been incorporated into Robin Mueller’s exhaustive Lancashire Bouldering Guide. If you are interested there is a delightful video http://vimeo.com/183222521
So when I receive an email from M. “How do you fancy helping me develop a crag that I have found? Between 10 and 20 m high?”
I’m hooked and despite my unfitness I was only too keen to join in the fun. I obviously had reservations of what could be new? A drive south on long forgotten roads. M and his wife have bought an isolated property in a secluded valley to start a new life. A lovely C17th farm house with flagged floors and low ceilings.
A walk on what is one of the hottest days of the year brings us to the crags where thankfully there is a pleasant breeze. M shows me the first buttress – I’m blown away. Perfect rock, up to 20 metres high with cracks and breaks. I struggle to follow him up the first new route which he climbed on sight. There was a heart stopping traverse move at half height where you leave a crack and blindly grope for a rounded layaway flake.
His next offering, again previously unclimbed though cleaned this week, involved some very steep moves which I found impossible with my injured left knee, lots of undignified shuffling to get my right leg onto the nose and up to more interesting climbing on immaculate rock. A good lead from M, I couldn’t have done it.
Refreshed by sandwiches and fluid, and it was time for his ‘triple buttress’ route. He had done this before but wanted my opinion of the grade – to be honest I found each of its three sections hard and thought-provoking, probably at least 4c/5a, harder than the other routes had been. But I’m not fit, so maybe I’m overestimating them. M is climbing well, and I’m impressed with the quality of the routes.
We were both exhausted from the climbing and the heat and agreed we had had enough. Back at M’s cottage we went down to the river where there is a secluded swimming pool. The cool water was so refreshing. Wouldn’t you all love this on your door step this weather? The day was topped off with tea and scones.
The secret pool.
M will be busy prospecting new lines and I can’t wait to join him again.
My son had never been to see the Bleasdale Circle despite having walked around the Bleasdale estate since he was a young child. In fact when I think about it, we pushed him round in a ‘buggy’ when he was barely one. I had to remind him that was 50 years ago!
I must have a dozen or more posts regarding Bleasdale and have mentioned the Bleasdale Circle several times. Things didn’t look right today as we took the concessionary path towards the circle – the trees which enclosed it have virtually gone, I had to take a second look. As we came closer it was obvious that there had been severe storm damage since I was last here and the remaining trees harvested. To be honest the whole site looked a mess, all very disappointing, it’s going to need some loving care to make it presentable once more. The concrete inner ‘posts’ were still in place, but the interpretation board was undecipherable. The views from up high on the fells will no longer show the prominent circle of trees marking the site. See my previous photos here.
I quote from previous posts –
The circles are Bronze Age and were originally oak posts, an outer and inner ring. Discovered in 1898 and subsequently excavated they yielded a central burial chamber with cremation urns and ashes. These are now on display in the Harris Museum in Preston. The inner ring of wooden posts have been replaced with concrete posts. The orientation of the posts within the circle of the Bleasdale Hills may suggest some deep reason for their siting here.
We walked on around the estate at a slow pace as the temperature soared. Our plan was to finish the walk just before six when the Cross Keys Inn at nearby Whitechapel would be opening. The plan worked, and we enjoyed a beer and a good meal.
It’s two months since I was last able to do a walk out of Mark Sutcliffe’s guide book. Finding one locally I strode out today on his Jeffrey Hill chapter. The suggestion was to park at Little Town Dairy, a farm shop, nursery and café. I feel guilty using a businesses’ car park if I’m not giving them any business so I parked by the road higher up on the route, which was to prove tiresome later in the day.
I had reservations about the initial route through the upmarket barn conversions at Dilworth Brow Farm, previously a run down property. There was no need to worry, the path through was obvious, and even the local dog was friendly. Every farm seems to be erecting holiday lodges, Is this a result of the recent ‘staycation’ mentality?
An uncertain start.
Once into fields I could enjoy views over the Ribble Valley and distant Pendle as I dropped to an ancient bridleway. Being enclosed and sunken this was once a boggy mess, but drainage has been installed and an upgraded grit surface added. This was only a short section of the right of way, one wonders why certain paths are improved (a further one later) when others are neglected.
Note the size of the left-hand gatepost.
I made the obligatory short diversion to view the Written Stone, I have written of this before,excuse the pun. A car passes down the farm lane, I thought I recognised friends from years ago and regretted not stopping them. As I walked through the tidy environs of Cottam House I asked a man about the history of the place, he turned out to be the son of the above couple. So we had a catch-up, I passed on my regards and walked on.
The Written Stone.
This was the start of a slow climb back up to the ridge of Longridge Fell. Rough ground skirting the golf club and then the road up to Jeffrey Hill at Cardwell House. A large walking group was coming past and didn’t seem over friendly, head down mentality. There was a straggler taking some interest in his surroundings. We ended up in a long conversation about all things, as he said “it’s not dark till late”. I felt he had lost connection with the route march he had been on. Nobody came looking for him.
Up to Jeffrey Hill.
The Ribble Valley and Pendle.
No time for stragglers.
I took a picture of the iconic view which I mentioned in a recent post. A ‘glass wall’ has replaced the iron railings depicted in the painting I own from 40 years ago.
That view from Jeffrey Hill.
Nearby was a bench for refreshments. Some stones had been intricately carved as part of an art sculpture from 2014, It was a shame they removed the star of the installation, the Sun Catcher.
Remains of the sculpture installation.
Now steeply downhill, look at the contours, ending up on the road at Thornley Hall. The ford leading off the road was surprisingly full. The next bit of track starts as a track but quickly becomes an overgrown narrow path, the book advises a stick for hacking back the vegetation. I happily swashbuckled my way along and at the end came onto another strange short stretch of gritted path.
Looking back up to Jeffrey Hill.
The listed C18th Thornley Hall.
A promising start to the bridleway…
…soon becomes this…
…and then unexpectedly this.
Familiar lanes took me past Wheatley Farm and a house that always has a splendid floral display. Onto the busy main road where care is needed on the bend. I was glad to be back in the peaceful fields of Chipping Vale under the Bowland Hills. Heading towards Little Town Dairy where I could have parked at the start, but no I was faced with another steep climb back onto the fell. I reckon I had climbed over 1000ft in the 7 miles which took me 4 hours including all those stops.
Wheatley Farm, 1774.
One has to spend one’s money on something. 57 has gone shopping.
Parlick and Fairsnape.
There was one more encounter at Sharples House. The farmer there had previously talked of having the largest cheese press in Lancashire, I believed him. In the past many farms in the area made their own cheese, tasty Lancashire. Today he seemed in a good mood, so I enquired further, and he took me to see the stone, it was indeed large and must have weighed a ton. He explained that the house was from the late 17th century. A former occupant, a Peter Walken (1684-1769) had been a nonconformist minister as well as a farmer. Uniquely he kept a series of diaries, most have been lost but two from 1733-34 have been found and published by a researcher from Preston museum. The present farmer was contacted and was able to see the journals but described them as boring, though they must have given an insight into farming life in the first half of the 18th century. He also told me of a mystery from the last century when two thieves broke into the house killing the farmer, but the daughter perhaps escaped hiding in an adjacent barn. One wonders how much local history has been lost.
There is another mystery just along the lane at Birks Farm – what is this structure in the wall built for? I should have asked the last farmer, next time.
Up the steep lane, over the last stile and I finish this splendid walk back at my car overlooking Longridge.
My friend and blogger Sir Hugh, conradwalks , often talks of ‘a bloggers gift’ Some unexpected happening or conversation that brings the story to life. He seems to collect these occurrences on a regular basis, many of them centred around a cup of tea with complete strangers. I’m secretly jealous.
Picture the scene – we are walking down a country lane when a man recognises me and enters into conversation. We are just passing his house, and he suggests showing us around his garden. We are not rushed for time, “Yes we would like that” was our innocent reply. The garden was large and unruly with many interesting plants. His main passion was apples and he had many varieties, most grafted onto stock by himself. We had finished the garden tour when his wife offered us tea, we couldn’t refuse. Next thing we were seated in the garden with tea and chocolate birthday cake. Talk was inevitably about the old times, we had many shared acquaintances.
As we came away after a good hour in their company I realised I should have had a photo of the occasion – a bloggers gift. Too late, what a missed opportunity.
Anyhow, here are a few photos from our stroll around the Whitechapel area beneath Beacon Fell. The emphasis was on beautiful Lancashire pastures with extensive views and on the multitude of very expensive properties, you don’t get much for less than a million. Mike was prospecting a possible route for a walk he is leading later in the month starting and finishing at the newly refurbished Cross Keys Inn.
Longridge Fell looking across the green Chipping Vale towards the Trough of Bowland.
At the risk of raising the blood pressure of my, environmentally sensitive, readers – read on.
Following on from my brush with Covid I have not kept up with the walks featured in the Lancashire Cicerone Guide book. I hope to resume them shortly. Today I needed a gentle leg stretcher – Longridge Fell always has something to offer. I’ve not done a ‘litter pick’ up there for several weeks so that became the object of the morning’s stroll.
Parking up I was immediately confronted with discarded pizza boxes and drink bottles , also strangely two plastic motor oil containers. There is a litter bin 10 metres away, though admittedly it is usually full to overflowing. Not a good start to the day.
I set off on my walk intending to clear this mess up when I return, it won’t all go in my bag. Longridge Fell was bone dry making for easy walking though the threats of moorland fires must be high. I noticed the bilberries were very small perhaps a reflection of our lack of rainfall this June and July. The other thing that struck me was that the heather was already blooming – I seem to have missed some seasons this year.
A sad finding on the ridge was a recently dead Kestrel. I could see no signs of it being shot, but I did wonder afterwards about possible poisoning. Should I have picked it up and sent to the RSPB or police for toxicology tests?
Up to the trig point and back in a circle I half filled my bag with the usual doggy poo bags, drinks cartons and food wrappers. The short stretch on the road at the end provided an equal amount of rubbish dumped out of passing cars. All I had to do was pick up the rest of that rubbish in the car park.
This is a local beauty spot with a fine view of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills so there are always cars parked here. In lock-down it was a free for all with all the verges taken over, things are back to normal now. Today I noticed two artists busy painting the scene. I wandered over to have a chat and admire their work. One was using watercolours and the other acrylic, they both complained about the high temperature affecting their paints. What a talent to be able to capture that view with a few brushstrokes. I wish I had asked them to email me a copy of their finished paintings. That reminds me, I have on my study wall a watercolour of the very same scene done for me by a Mr. A Long, an artist who lived in Longridge 40 odd years ago.
Mr Long’s painting.
What a contrast from two gents fully appreciating their environment to the louts who drive up here with their takeaways and don’t take them away.
I used to be able to recognise and name most of the wayside flowers. As part of my A Level Botany course we had to present a collection of pressed and dried flowers to the external examiner for an intensive viva. I’m talking of 60 years ago, I suspect the modern day student will not of heard of external examiners and vivas. Being the sad git that I am, I still have my folder of dried flowers, about 200 species all classified and labelled precisely. I may fish them out and show you my diligence.
Time passes by and one’s interests widen, but I have always tried to put a name to plants as I pass by, but I admit to becoming a bit rusty on those once familiar names. At my age one starts to worry about dementia but all my friends struggle too. Annoyingly that elusive name will often surface at a later time. Anyhow, to brush up on my plant recognition skills I decided to upload an app onto my phone that would help me on those I had forgotten. I know I’m behind the times with this technology.
There were several to choose from, and eventually I chose one. I pointed it at an Ox Eye Daisy and it only told me that it was from the Asteraceae (daisy) family. That didn’t seem to be good enough, so I tried a few more. None were particularly accurate or quick to respond, maybe it’s my ageing Android phone. I searched ‘best plant apps’ and eventually settled on iNaturalist. Time to put it to the test.
A local walk I often do involves a pleasant almost traffic free lane. They call it Mile Lane despite the fact that it only measures half a mile. My mission today was to try and photograph and identify every flower seen on this short rural stretch of Lancashire. Last time I was out I was solely on the trail of the Bee Orchid – today I would be content with a Thistle or Dandelion.
That half mile took me far longer than usual as I searched the verges and hedges for as many plants as possible. Rather disappointedly I only counted 25 different species. (Grasses weren’t included, that would have been a step too far.) I recognised the majority of them but was stumped by one which my app told me was a Hedge Woundwort, Stachys sylvatica. I wasn’t aware of its pungent smell, next time I come across it I’ll check that out. Its common name suggests it was used for dressing wounds, no doubt having some antiseptic properties.
I was not impressed with the iNaturalist. It took a long time to register the plant and often gave a rather vague identification. I admit my phone is not the best for photography which may have a bearing on the results. If any of you have a suggestion for a favourite plant identification app I would be very grateful for your advice, I’ll try it out on a different lane.
I’ve never been fully around Sunderland or Bazil Points so walk no 18 in Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone Guide to Walking in Lancashire was an attractive proposition especially as it was flat as a pancake which suited my crumbling body.
I have a fear of rising tides, so the logistics for this walk were important. Tide timetables were consulted and double-checked, last Saturday looked good with a low tide at 9am. Unusually for me, I was parked up at Overton at 9am. Would my car disappear under the waves whilst I was out, I said I was nervous about the tides around Morecambe Bay. Remember the disaster in 2004 when at least 21 Chinese illegal immigrant labourers were drowned by an incoming tide whilst picking cockles off the Lancashire coast.
There was little sign of water as I walked across the causeway, just mud and marsh grass in all directions. The Sea Thrift gave the area a pink glow. A few cars passed heading to town. Soon I was at the few houses that call themselves Sunderland, once the major port for Lancaster and beyond. I wrote of the history of this place when I visited in October last year.
That time I was on my cycle so didn’t go right round the point itself. Today I continued past the last house onto the rocky shoreline and found a place to sit at the very end looking out over the Lune to Cockerham and distant Knott End. There was Plover Lighthouse seemingly on land today. As the tide was well out there were virtually no waders on the shore, just the odd shelduck, but curlews were calling in the fields behind me and goldfinches flitting through the gorse bushes. A local lady walked by and talked of the unique life here. I enjoyed the peace and the view knowing that when I turned the corner Heysham power stations would dominate the landscape.
Glaucium flavum only found on the coast.
I passed by Sambos Grave and the Camera Obscura, I couldn’t resist going inside for the upside down view. Cows were grazing on the marshes. A wild rose had the most delicate perfume.
Up at Potts’ Corner more people started to appear on the sands, presumably from the nearby caravan parks. Here I joined the zigzagging lane for half a mile before cutting across fields to use the sea wall leading back to Overton. The village is a cluster of cottages on an elevated site above the Lune. Some of the properties dating back to the C17th when it was a farming and fishing community.
I walked on to the church, one of the oldest in Lancashire. It was locked, so I couldn’t view the interior box pews and balcony. I found a seat near the Norman doorway and ate my sandwich looking over to Glasson. Then along came a gent in a tweed jacket, shorts and trilby, he cycled in to get some photos of the estuary as the tide comes in. Turns out we had mutual interests and spent a pleasant half hour chatting about this and that.
There was an old lane leading down to the shore from where at one time a ferry crossed to Glasson which looked very close. I walked around Bazil Point on the edge of the rocks, which would be difficult if the tide was in. Each gate on the way has a smart red sign. The point was as atmospheric as the one I’d walked this morning and as the tide raced in the surface of the water displayed a silver shimmering which I found mesmerising.
Ferry Cottage – considerably modernised. What a situation.
Looking back to Bazil Point.
At one stage I left the beach to walk in the fields, though I later found I needn’t have. The path left the field by a most unusual high stile down to the beach. By now I was surrounded by a herd of cows with a sturdy bull coming my way. I was glad of the escape route.
The bull is prowling at the top.
And then I was back at my car, still above the waters. What a magic area this is and well represented by Mark’s walk.
This is my latest route from Mark Sutcliffe’s guide to walks in the Red Rose county, although this one starts in Cumbria. Kirkby Lonsdale is a bustling market town in south Cumbria, My journey here had been slowed by several convoys of horse-drawn travellers probably heading to Appleby Horse Fair to be held next month. I park near the Devil’s Bridge where I know the parking is free, his suggestion of central parking is probably unwise.
The medieval Devil’s Bridge has three graceful, ribbed arches and is closed to traffic. I was in no hurry and in fact on arrival cross the bridge on foot to buy a coffee from the mobile stall, a favourite with motor cyclists, when at weekends up to a hundred may congregate here. It has also been the scene of youngsters ‘tombstoning’ into the river below, not to be advised. Chatting to a cyclist, of the bicycle genre, it transpires he has ridden from Preston in a time not that much more than double my car journey. The bridge has a legend relating to the devil, I liked this version…(ignore the plugs towards the end)
So it’s getting late when I start my walk downstream alongside the Lune. For two miles along this stretch all is peace and quiet, only a few dog walkers. The air is however full of rapidly flying Sand Martins, I’m almost mesmerised by their acrobatics. I suspect that this year’s juveniles are boosting the numbers. On the opposite side is a long low sandbank with obvious nesting holes visible. Ahead in the distance are the Bowland Hills, just visible in the rather cloudy sky. Behind are the Barbondale group of lower fells and there across to the east is the distinctive Ingleborough. Once he has attracted your attention you are hooked and spend the rest of the day taking more and more duplicate photographs. I make an effort today to avoid that trap, unsuccessful as you will see later.
Before long I’m heading away from the river on a flooded track up into the village of Whittington. Mark’s route takes a path parallel to the village road, but I am curious to see the old houses so take a slight diversion up the main street. I’m glad I did as there are some interesting properties many from the C17th, most of them listed.
Barn at Low Hall, late C18th…
…with pigeonholes and an owl opening.
Malt Kiln House.
The pub is closed.
The Old School. 1875.
The grand Whittingham Hall from 1831 is hidden down a private drive.
Eventually up the hill I reach the parish church of St. Michael with its early C16th tower. The rest having been largely rebuilt in 1875 by Paley and Austin, well known for their church architecture in Lancashire. Internally there is an elaborately carved chancel screen. The church is built on the motte of an earlier castle, where I sat in the sunshine enjoying a sandwich, The path I should have approached the church by was clear to see ahead of me. Whilst admiring the view I witnessed something I’d never seen before – an angry blackbird was chasing at low level a squirrel across the field. Presumably the squirrel had been attacking the bird’s nest.
Rest over I tackled the very steep lane heading north, it appeared to be a ‘green’ lane but was in fact a highway though I doubt few motorists would tackle it from the bottom. All was in fact very green and shady.
Once at the top I took diverted paths around Sellet Hall with views across to Barbondale and of course Ingleborough.
Sellet Hall. C17th much modified.
Down a meadow full of contented cows to Sellet Mill, a former water powered corn mill where the iron mill wheel has been preserved.
Sellet Mill. C19th much modified.
The continuing bridleway back up the hill was rather strange, behind the mill was the original millpond (now a leisure pond) and coming down into it a rocky stream. The bridle way took me straight up this stream, in parts the old cobbles were visible, but most will have been washed away. After heavy rain this way would be impossible.
At the top I came out into meadows above Kirkby Lonsdale with excellent views over the valleys and to, yes you’ve guessed it, Ingleborough. Again strangely the RofW went straight across the middle of a rugby pitch, what are your rights when there is game on?
Then it was through the middle of the Queen Elizabeth high school, I felt I was trespassing.
I found Kirkby over touristy. There are lots of interesting buildings and alleyways, but the town suffers from a traffic problem with cars everywhere, even though my photos seem to show an absence of them!. I was glad I’d parked out of town – be warned. The flags are out for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee later this week, in case you are from another planet.
I made my way towards St. Mary’s Church. The oldest parts of the church are Norman, doors and pillars, but the structure has had numerous alterations over the centuries. Inside there are three Isles and the nave, so the church appears grand. Some of the Norman pillars have incised decoration similar to Durham Cathedral. I missed a ‘green man’ carved on one of the C12th columns. There is a C13th piscina in another.
The graveyard is extensive with some impressive memorials and at one corner is an unusual octagonal stone gazebo from the late 18th century which was formerly in the vicarage garden.
I’d come over here to visit Ruskin’s View, a celebrated view of the Lune as it curves gracefully in the wide valley with the hills beyond. Turner had painted this scene in 1822 and Ruskin, art critic, painter and poet had this to say about it – “I do not know in all my country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine.” Kirkby Lonsdale’s tourist jewel was set forever. Unfortunately there has been a land slip below the path which has therefore been closed for safety reasons. There was no way round it, so I give you this picture from the tourist board.
Disappointed I descended the steep Radical Steps to the river. The steps were built in 1820 for Dr Francis Pearson, a political radical, to divert the existing public footpath from his garden – a radical step. A level walk along the riverside, popular with locals and tourists, lead back to the Devil’s Bridge.
In its six miles an excellent walk, one of the best I have done from the book so far
I’ve probably walked out of Hurst Green dozens of times. The Tolkien Trail takes you along the River Ribble and going the other direction towards Longridge Fell you have the delightful Dean Brook and Stonyhurst College. Today I was walking with a group whom I first met at Haigh Hall a month ago – they always walk the last Wednesday in the month.
It was still raining when we met up at The Shireburn Arms at 10am. The forecast said it would stop at 12. I didn’t bring my camera partly because of the weather but also because in a group there are limited chances for photography. Of course, we all have our phones these days with functional built-in cameras. Anyhow, I didn’t expect to tread new territory.
As we walked up through the village and down into Dean Clough I contented myself with idle chatter. The interesting mill weirs and races in Dean Brook went unnoticed to most. The quarry, Sand Rock, where the building materials for many houses in Hurst Green originated passed us by. Greengore, a medieval hunting lodge of the Shireburns was duly admired. It is currently up for sale £1,250,000.
Onwards up the bridleway and I realise it has stopped raining which is a bonus for the assembled crowd, although it is very muddy underfoot. We are on the edge of woodland belonging to Stonyhurst College where they have their own private lake as a water supply and fishery. I have trespassed many times into those secret lands where there is a hidden cross, Park Cross, with a history going back possibly to a Maria Shireburn, whose body may have been carried past here on the way to her burial at Mitton in 1754. It is one of nine Stonyhurst crosses I incorporated into a walk from Hurst Green. I digress.
To my delight our leader takes us off on a bridleway through Hudd Lee Woods an area I had never knowingly trodden. The bluebells were over but the greens of the beeches and ferns were splendid, as a little sunlight filtered through. My spirits were lifted.
On down to the main road where we saw the remains of the C18th grade II listed Punch Bowl Inn. It is said to have been visited by the highwaymen Dick Turpin and Ned King in 1738. They stayed for three days after which Turpin travelled to York while King attacked travellers on the local roads. King was executed in 1741 and his ghost was reputed to haunt the pub. The pub had been closed for many years and the new owners tried to get planning permission for several schemes which were turned down so last year they demolished it without permission. An investigation followed, leading Ribble Valley Council to instruct the owners to rebuild it! I can see them appealing the decision and getting away with a slap on the wrist. We seem to have lost any sense of duty and honesty in this country as exemplified by the findings of the Sue Gray report published today on the goings-on of our ‘honourable’ Prime Minister.
Back onto the quieter Shire Lane with views over the Ribble Valley. Just when I thought we were cruising into Hurst Green we were taken through a farmyard and into fields trampled by a herd of frisky bullocks. While most of us tried to avoid the worst of their excrement a brave member of the group held the beasts at bay with his walking poles. “They weren’t here yesterday – honest” was the plea of our leader.
A bonus was one of those Peak & Northern Footpaths Society green signs erected in 2016.
A couple of awkward high stiles slowed the less agile of the party, but they were the only ones uncounted all day. Then we were heading downhill quickly and slipperily back to Dean Brook. At the bottom we found ourselves in the garden of a couple of stone built properties, one had been originally a bobbin mill supplying bobbins and shuttles to the Lancashire cotton mills using power from a mill race taking water from Dean Brook. Again this is something I had missed in the past.
We had come full circle and retired to the excellent Shireburn Arms for lunch.
The Punch Bowl 2019
Heading down to the old bobbin mill.
That had been an excellent circuit and I regretted not bringing my camera.
The day was gloomy and so was I – perhaps I overdid the whisky last night. I was still mooching around the house late morning. But I keep trying to push my walking that bit farther. As you know I’m slowly working my way through Mark Sutcliffe’s Cicerone guide to Walking in Lancashire. In this I’m mirrored by Phreerunning Martin who always gets an interestingly different take from me, the pleasures of blogging. I needed something not too long and preferably as flat as possible. Walk 15 seemed perfect. I know the Glasson Dock area well and have done several variations of this walk before, probably most recently on my Lancashire Monastic Way. But looking at Mark’s route I spotted some paths I had never walked. I might struggle to say something original about this walk.
I was a little embarrassed to leave my car in The Stork’s private car park, but the other space was taken by Travellers and their caravans. The channels of the Condor don’t look at their best during low tide. Following the old railway I came into Glasson, busy with people visiting an outdoor market. I couldn’t go past the little shop without buying a coffee, this time to drink as I climbed the minor hill to the viewpoint. The views were disappointing but the coffee good, sorry about the environment polluting cup.
I worked my way around the coast. The tide was out, so Plover lighthouse was accessible, it was previously maintained from the shore before becoming automatic. The incumbent keeper was based at Lighthouse Cottage where there was another light atop a wooden scaffold to line up ships coming into the tricky Lune channel. Across the channel I could see Sunderland Point at one time the major port on the Lune.
A sign talks of plovers nesting on the shoreline, but I wonder about this as the tide comes in fully most days.
Lots of walkers were converging on Cockersand Abbey, of which the only remaining building is the octagonal Chapter House. This has survived because it was used as a mausoleum by the Daltons of Thurnham Hall (see later) during the 18th and 19th centuries. The red sandstone rocks on the shore line show where the building blocks of the Abbey originated.
Continuing around the coast on the sea embankment passing several caravan parks which looked very vulnerable to high tides. It will be interesting to view this area in the coming decades as sea levels rise. Those are the Bowland Hills behind.
Tree of the day.
Small planes kept taking off from somewhere on Cockerham sands, disappearing into the dark clouds only for tiny parachutes to fall from the skies. They were from the Black Knights centre. Was the sign for parachutists that had gone astray on their descent?
I left the coast and followed bridleways through drained lands up to Thursland Hall where one is corralled into narrow ways to bypass their fishery. Change of scenery.
A kilometre of tedious walking brought me to Thurnham Hall, a C17th country house converted into a spa hotel. It looked very smart and there were plenty of people staying in the attached residential block. Walking through I reflected that my life seems very simple compared to others. Escaping by a gate into a field I was wary of proceeding through the large herd of frisky bullocks, so I resorted to an outflanking manoeuvre bringing me back to an ancient green lane. A bridge gave access to the Glasson branch canal.
Herons are a common sight on waterways, staring motionless into the water. I have never seen one catch a fish, but today I was lucky this heron had just caught an eel and was having difficulty trying to swallow it whole. The highlight of the day.
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.
After my pleasant interlude in the Primrose Nature Reserve I drove across town to visit the Cross Hill Nature Reserve, managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust.
“Colonised by orchids and teaming with butterflies, Cross Hill Quarry is a shining example of how nature reclaims the relics of our industrial past.”
I found parking difficult on the road used by all the lorries visiting the cement works but eventually found a quiet spot on the Pimlico Road. The area is dominated by the works, limestone Cross Hill Quarry was apparently abandoned in the early 1900s. I entered by the path next to the railway to walk round in a clockwise direction. What struck me most was the notice board for the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail. in This was established in 1993 to make art accessible to all whilst enjoying the walks in the park. Artists liaised with the local community to produce works relating to the specific environment. I had previously passed a few of them on the riverside walk, part of The Ribble Way through Brungerley Park. There have been many newer installations, so why not follow the whole trail today? Download your own leaflet here.
The first sculpture is one of several by Halima Cassell, a flower head of Great Burnet, 2009. Made up of many ceramic bricks it displays strong patterns reflecting her Islamic heritage which you will recognise in her other works.
To start with the path was very close to the industry on the left, but one soon lost oneself in the greenery. I diverted to see the Tawny Owl Seat, 2018, created out of sandstone by the prosaic Ribble ValleyStonemasonry. I wasn’t impressed, but it did have a good view of the Ribble and distant misty Bowland.
There was a good showing of Cowslips in the meadowland here, but I realised I was probably a month too soon for the orchids and butterflies, although I did spot a solitary male Orange Tip.
Back on the peripheral path were a stunning pair of Sika Deer, 2007, by Clare Bigger. These life-sized minimalistic animals spr