Category Archives: Walking.

STOCKS RESERVOIR – THE OTHER WAY ROUND.

Last week my planned trip to Stocks was aborted by a last-minute decision to walk up Croasdale. I was back today though and parked at a remote spot on the hill road from Slaidburn to Bentham just short of the Cross of Greet bridge over the River Hodder, yes I renew my acquaintance with this lovely river. The Hodder Valley up here was dammed in the 1920s to create Stocks Reservoir.  For an informative history, http://www.dalehead.org/ is worth consulting.

As is usual with my walks at the present I don’t set off till lunchtime when the weather is hopefully on the mend. Where I park, avoiding the busy honeypots, gives me easy access to the waymarked circular walk around the Reservoir. Incidentally, my last visit here with Sir Hugh and JD was last July almost to the day. That was a bright sunny day whereas today was dull and windy and I decided to walk anticlockwise for a change.

Immediately I was inserted into a procession of walkers who were already halfway round. It’s a busy Sunday. Behind me, a commotion erupted as a couple with a dog off the lead, despite all the notices, were frantically calling its name, Max, as it charged off after the sheep. They charged off after the dog and all ended up in a heap on the hillside, I had no sympathy and walked on.

The route I was walking was originally a rail track from a quarry providing stone for the dam. It took me past the fishermen’s cafe and centre, where I couldn’t resist a coffee, served with all the Covid precautions we are having to get used to.

Onwards past the stately mansion built by the waterboard.

From the dam I watched fishermen stood in the water or more sensibly sat in a boat, not a fish was landed.

After that were open meadows with views up the water. I would think it was fifty-fifty as to the number of walkers going my way and those completing the circuit clockwise. I’ve often debated on how we choose the way around a circular walk – prevailing weather conditions, the best views, ease of ascents, the guidebook description etc. I wonder if left-handers have a different mindset? Whatever my circuit today gave different aspects to previous visits.

At the road, I met all the mountain bikers spilling out of Gisburn Forest and all the cars parked in and out of the car park. The lockdown has highlighted selfish and illegal parking.

Once past the parking I had the trail to myself once again giving me time to nibble away at the abundant wild raspberries. United Utilities have done an excellent job of keeping us walkers off the road on a permissive path that has a good feel as it winds through the bushes.

Occasional walls remind one of the previous village that occupied this valley. I popped into one of the bird hides along here but not much was happening, cormorants were drying their wings on a promontory on the far side of the water and a kestrel was hunting closer by.

A steady pull up a lane brought me to the site of New House farm of which there is only a barn still standing, the web site I mentioned has photos of the old farms. Great views back down from up here over Stocks with Pendle in the distance.

I’m almost full circle but first, have to drop down to cross the footbridge over the River Hodder and climb up on a flagged path past more ruins to where I am parked.

Here I bizarrely meet a young lady with a baby in a pram and a couple of working dogs. , “He was teething so I’ve come out to settle him”,   She lives just up the lane in one of the most remote farmhouses in Lancashire, it was Yorkshire once. She bemoans the fact that the area is becoming more accessible and well known. there are even boy racers on the road.

*****

 

 

 

 

THE HODDER FROM BOTH SIDES.

                                                                       LOWER HODDER BRIDGE.

Back in time, the River Hodder was a boundary between Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire in these parts. The Upper and Lower Hodder bridges are inscribed accordingly and tonight I tread both sides.

My evening stroll starts from the Higher Hodder Bridge and follows the woods on the south side of the river. To be honest you don’t get good views of the river when the trees are in full leaf. I do however spot a fly fisherman wading in on the opposite side.

My path goes up and down to eventually arrive at the Stonyhurst Park Cross and on down to another cross which has been decapitated. Here a side stream is crossed by an ornate bridge and down below on the river banks are the remains of bathing huts used by pupils of Stonyhurst and the preparatory Hodder Place in past times. The river here has several natural weirs creating suitable bathing pools. It looked tempting today but I think a special trip is called for with support from like-minded friends.

 

Bathing Huts, Early C20.

There is a steep little climb away from the river towards Hodder Place [now residential apartments] but I didn’t think it was that steep…

A mile of easy walking alongside the Hodder brings one to the Lower Hodder Bridge and of course its historic companion ‘Cromwell’s Bridge’.  He is said to have marched his army over on the way to Stonyhurst and on to fight the Battle of Preston in 1648.  I do have to admire its shapely three arches. Across the bridge, a stile leads me into fields on what would have been the Yorkshire side. You climb high above the river which is not visible at this time of year through the trees. All is peaceful. This is all lovely walking country, green fields, grazing sheep and Lancashire hills. A contrast to the woods I’d walked through on the other side. The medieval Mitton Church could be seen across the way, that’s where I walked a couple of weeks ago by the River Ribble. The rivers meet less than a mile away.

A short stretch of road and I’m back in fields heading down to the Hodder again under Kemple End the eastern limit of Longridge Fell. The Higher Hodder bridge brings me back to my start point – I could almost walk it again.

The Hodder upstream.

                                                            HIGHER HODDER BRIDGE.

*****

COVID FREE CROASDALE – PURE NOSTALGIA.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be”  Douglas Adams.

After a late breakfast Sunday, I set off to Slaidburn for a gentle walk around Stocks Reservoir. I was enjoying the drive over with the roof down listening to the West Indians scoring too freely in the Test match. As I came over the rise on the road up from Cow Ark there in front of me were the Three Peaks of Yorkshire, a view I always thrill to. Out of the corner of my eye were the Bowland Fells, vying for attention. I was aware of the half-hidden valley of Croasdale and realised I hadn’t visited it for a year or so. A quick change of objective and I found myself parked up in that little pull off at the very top of Woodhouse Lane. I pondered on how many times I’ve parked there over the years especially in the early years of this century when we were developing the bouldering potential of the Bull Stones higher up the valley. We would race up the track to climb all-day and then most nights come down in the dark, we knew every twist of the route.

Of course, we were not the first to come this way. The Romans forged a road over the fells, probably adopting ancient ways, linking Ribchester with Carlisle. Some of the culverts on this The Hornby Road date back to the Romans. Later there was trade between the Monasteries of Yorkshire and the coast, wool one way and salt the other, hence the other name for this route, Salter Fell Track. A metal marker on the track commemorates the 400th year anniversary of the Lancashire Witches being dragged this way to their trial and execution in Lancaster.

It was a Lancashire Witches Walk waymark on the fell gate that reminded me of probably my last visit here whilst undertaking that excellent way. At the time a group of workmen were repairing a section of road just past the bridge. A gully was undermining the road and an expensive shoring up exercise was underway. That has been completed and the repairs extended up what was a very rough section of road by resurfacing with limestone chippings which look out of place in this gritstone environment. No doubt this has all been done using taxpayers funds and yet the only people to benefit from it are the shooting fraternity who have a lodge further up the track.

Few people walk up this valley and today the only people I see are motorcyclists who are able to travel right through from Slaidburn to Hornby a classic moorland journey. The man himself, A Wainwright described it as the best moorland walk in England although I’m not sure what he would have had to say regarding the motorcycles.

My more modest aim today is just to reach the gate near the summit and then traverse back along the hillside visiting the Bull Stones. I’ve brought my binoculars along as this area used to be a good place to see Hen Harriers, but alas no more due to persecution from ‘hands unknown’.  Many of you will know the story of Bowland Beth. So I don’t see harriers but I do spot a pair of kestrels, some stonechats and more excitedly two ring ouzels.

I sit under a favourite boulder and eat some lunch whilst gazing down the valley with Pendle in the far distance, there is not a soul in sight. The only sounds are the occasional bleating of sheep and the cries of seagulls which come inland here.

I continue along the edge of the rocks, past the spring of sparkling water where I know I can refresh myself even in the middle of summer. Around the corner, the continuation of the rocks is at a higher level and I make my way slowly up to them. I’m aiming for one particular group where there is a 50-degree slabby rock which we called ‘super slab’ on our first visit, I’m inclined to overdramatize but it is super. Perfect clean steep rock, rippled slightly with the odd pebble for a finger hold. 

Somebody produced a video featuring this slab so you can see what I’m going on about –

After lovingly fingering the start of the climb, I don’t have my rock shoes with me, I make my way to the end of the rocks, the Calf Stones.

Down below is that massive stone trough carved from an in-situ boulder. Time for another sit and contemplative look down the valley towards Pendle. I have time to examine the minutiae of the lichen growing into the gritstone.   I then head down to pick up a hidden sheep trod in the bracken that I know will take me across the rough hillside to join an estate track down to the ford. It had been at the back of my mind all afternoon as to whether I would be able to safely cross the stream here. One winter it was impossible and we had to make quite a detour to find a way across. Today, despite the recent rainfall and the stream flowing quickly, I seemed to just hop across.

Just follow the path.

Back on the main track, I had time to reminisce on times staying in the barn visible down below. It has been overhauled by United Utilities partly to preserve the unique sheepfolds that surround it.  Once with my eldest grandson, we had two nights there and were treated to hen harrier flypasts both evenings as we sat by a campfire eating baked beans and sausages, magic.

From up here, I could see in the distance a small section of Stocks reservoir where I could well have been. Another time.

*****

A STONYHURST CROSSES WALK.

FOUR NINE CROSSES AND A  STONE.

I have read of four old crosses at different locations around the Stonyhurst estate and have come across them on local walks. Apparently, pupils from the school used to visit each cross in an annual pilgrimage on Palm Sunday. I was keen to know more and maybe link the crosses myself. I phoned a recently retired Stonyhurst schoolmaster who was interested in the history of the school but he knew nothing of the four crosses’ pilgrimage. As it is now the summer holidays there is nobody at the school to ask further.

Internet searching gave me this –  “In the countryside around Stonyhurst, 4 crosses are situated, and on 16th March 2008 (Palm Sunday), a pilgrimage was made from the College to all of them.  This entailed a 5-mile walk that completely encircled the College, and showed off the wonderful countryside in a dramatic way.  It is hoped to repeat the same next year, and even make it an annual event. Fr John Twist, Stonyhurst College Chaplain, led the group on an attractive circular walk,”

The Pinfold Cross is a memorial to a former servant at Stonyhurst College and fiddler, James Wells. It was erected in 1834 at Stockbridge after he died in a quarry accident. On the front is inscribed the legend, ‘WATCH FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY NOR HOUR.’ Above this is written, ‘OFT EVENINGS GLAD MAKE MORNINGS SAD’. On the left is ‘PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF JAMES WELLS’ and on the right, ‘DIED FEB. 12TH, 1834′.

Cross Gills Farm Cross is thought to have come from a church. An old wives’ tale records how a farmer had to replace the cross when his cattle died after he had thrown the original into the river.

Stonyhurst Park Cross stands above the River Hodder in the woods close to the former Jesuit preparatory school, Hodder Place. A new cross was fixed to the ancient base in 1910, and was blessed on 12 June 1910 by the Jesuit provincial, Father Sykes; the origin of the base is unknown.

Saint Paulinus Cross stands at Kemple End on Longridge Fell and is a listed monument believed to date from Anglo-Saxon times. It may well mark a spot at which Saint Paulinus of York preached.

 

Left to my own devices I started to plot a route but I came up with four more crosses on the 1:25,000 map.

One in a plantation high on the Stonyhurst estate  I can find no information except it first appeared on maps in 1910. I went to look for it in early June.

Another on the village green In Hurst Green itself is Grade II listed – ‘The cross was possibly restored in the 19th century. It is in sandstone and has a base of three square steps. On the cross head is a roughly punched trefoil shape.’  Also on the village green are two more modern crosses, one for the Boer War and the other WW I & II.

*****

This last Saturday was set fair and I was free in the afternoon to walk around the Stonyhurst estate visiting the now eight crosses. Parking during Covid19 has been difficult in popular walking areas and when I arrived Hurst Green was just about full. My start was delayed talking to a local resident about all things viral and the latest village gossip.

First stop was the village green where there the two obvious large modern crosses stand. The WW one on a roundabout and the Boer War memorial, Celtic design, on the green.   But I could find no sign of the Grade II listed one on the west side of the green I even investigated the rockery stones of an adjacent garden.    So that was a bad start, two out of three.

WW Memorial. Three-sided – Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley.

Commemorates the services of Frederick Sleigh, first Earl Roberts KVCO, and his companions in arms, the Soldiers and Sailors of the Empire, who fought in South Africa 1899-1902

.

I crossed the road by the Shireburn Alms to locate a field path dropping down to the River Ribble and there at the gate was yet another ‘slate poem’ this time a simple one.

Green fields led down to the Ribble close to where an aqueduct crosses over. There were several groups of walkers coming along the banks almost at the end of their Tolkien Trail.

I was heading upstream to find a path branching up towards a conical hill with a cross clearly seen on its top. This is the Cross Gills Cross. Unfortunately, the field it was in was surrounded by an electrified fence with the public right of way on the wrong side. A bit of crawling had me through. [I’m sure if you ask permission at Cross Gills Farm up the lane they would allow you access] The carved base of the cross looks much older than the rest which corresponds to its history. There were great views of Pendle from up here. Having crossed the main road tracks wound into the immaculate cricket ground of the college with its C19th brick pavilion. I skirt the college by Hall Barn, Gardener’s Cottage and Woodfields to enter open countryside.

The path enters the Over Hacking Woods and descends steep steps to the River Hodder. Near here are the ruins of bathing sheds used by the boys when swimming in the river in days gone by.

By the little stone bridge over a side stream I notice the base of a cross close to the river, this is not the Park Cross I was expecting. It is not marked on the modern 1:25,000 map but I later find is shown on the 1894 edition. So I now have a 9th cross of unknown origin.

The path climbs again and at the top of the steps, I see the Park Cross.

Onwards through the woods with occasional glimpses of the Hodder. I have to pay attention as I’m looking for a side path leading up to Rydding’s Farm, it is not marked but I climb the hillside to a stile on the skyline. A good place to rest with a drink and snack. Whilst perched up here in the field below a man is training his black retriever to fetch. He has some sort of gun that goes off with a loud bang and shoots out a plastic ‘ball’ a considerable distance. The dog had no difficulty retrieving with a few whistle prompts from his master. All this no doubt trying to simulate a shot pheasant.

I now have to climb further towards Kemple End for the next cross. The footpath near the top enters an enclosure but fortunately  I can go round the end of the wall into the field where the Paulinus Cross is found. It is a strange shaped weathered cross sitting in a large base. Legend says that St, Paulinus preached here during his Christian mission to Northern England around 619 – 633 AD. It is certainly a commanding situation with views over the Ribble Valley and further afield.

I was soon on the Old Clitheroe Road which with virtually no traffic was pleasant to walk along on the side of Longridge Fell passing some interesting properties on the way.

On a previous recce to the next cross, I’d ended up in the replanted forest which was extremely difficult to walk through. I’d spotted a short cut across a field avoiding the worst. Tonight the field was full of cows with their calves, I hesitated at the gate but reckoned I could go round the herd without disturbing them. It was only when I was halfway across I spotted the bull in amongst his ladies. I was quickly over the wall into the woods and only 100 yds to the hidden cross on its hillock. I wouldn’t think anybody has been here since my last visit. Somebody must know something of its history.

My escape track from last time was virtually obliterated by tall bracken and if I hadn’t known it was there I would have had problems. The track appeared and took me out – as far as the ford over the stream, last time I hopped across dry footed but today it was in flood. I spotted a nearby log bridge but that took some nerve and concentration to commit to its slippery surface.

I emerged back onto the bridleway near the distinctive Greengore, a previous hunting lodge.

The little footpath into the woods is easy to miss. The path drops down to that stream again but this time there is a sturdy bridge.

The way now goes past Higher Deer House another reminder of Stonyhursts past, today there were only cattle in the park. Notice the evening light.

This little chap needed a helping hand to escape the grid –

The farm lane brought me onto the road close to my next cross, the prominent Pinfold Cross with its thoughtful inscriptions.

I was on the home leg now, down the lane to Stonyhurst College lakes and up the long drag to the Virgin Mary Statue. At the top I noticed, I think for the first time, Cromwell’s Stone. According to tradition, Cromwell, on the way to the Battle of Preston in 1648 stood on this stone and described the mansion ahead of him as “the finest half-house in England” as at that time the building was incomplete. For more legends and history of Stonyhurst, this site is worth a read –  https://lancashirepast.com/2018/03/11/stonyhurst-hall-and-college/

Cromwell’s Stone.

Hurst Green had returned to its peaceful self when I arrived back at my car about 7pm. I’d had a good 9-mile walk in grand Lancashire countryside, visited 8 crosses and a stone but it was still niggling me that I couldn’t find the listed cross on the green. As I drove away I spotted a lady tidying her rockery adjoining the green. An opportunity I couldn’t miss. Parked up I enquired of her about the cross. She was a little reticent at first but once I’d explained my pilgrimage she volunteered the fact that the cross was inside her neighbour’s garden and no they didn’t want people wandering in. We passed the time of day and as I was about to go she kindly said I could just about see it from her garden. And there was the Grade II Listed Cross hidden behind an Acer, a short cross on a large base.    Can you see it?

 

*****

*****

OS GRID REFERENCES.

WWI/II Memorial.                      SD 6853 3792

Boer War Memorial.                  SD 6851 3793

Listed Cross.                                SD 6843 3791

Cross Gills Cross.                        SD 6955 3785

Cross base by the Hodder.        SD 6998 3999

Park Cross.                                   SD 6988 3998

Paulinus Cross.                            SD 6864 4044

Hidden Cross.                              SD 6717 3986

Pinfold Cross.                              SD 6825 3980

Cromwell’s Stone.                       SD 6834 3854

 

A BIT OF DUTTON.

Dutton, like Mitton, is a scattered community, a few houses here and there. It is bounded on the south by the River Ribble and stretches high up onto Longridge Fell.

This evening, recently the days have been showery but the evenings sunny, I wanted to explore again the gorge-like Duddel Brook which runs through the middle of Dutton. Since I was last here I have read a little more and found some old maps of the area necessitating another visit to examine the Dutton mill remains. On one map it is labelled as a Bone MIll which suggests to me grinding bones to manufacture bone meal but another source implies a combing mill, comb as in cotton spinning rather than hair care. Perhaps it was both at different periods. Whatever, there is a weir, a mill race or leat, a millpond and a wheelhouse to be discovered.

OS 1892

My path through fields is clear and soon I enter the wooded valley and come across the wheelhouse. Above is a large mill pond partially silted in. From there I can trace a mill race above the stream to a weir where the water was diverted. All very plain to see.

Wheel House

Wheel House.

Wheel pit.

Millpond.

Mill race.

Mill race.

Mill race.

Weir.

Weir and start of the race.

My way onwards up the valley crossed a footbridge and climbed high on the western bank before dropping back down near a waterfall where the water was forded, there were no stepping stones. All very delightful.

Back out in open fields hares dashed away in front of me. I came out onto the main road near the junction with Gallows Lane. One of the ‘slate poems’ that have appeared during lockdown was propped up here.

I crossed the road to a driveway and followed it down past the barking dog at Grindlestone [grind stone] Farm. The track was bordered by an old iron railing usually the sign of an estate boundary. If I had continued I would have come onto the Ribble Way into Hurst Green but I turned off at an unsigned and apparently little used bridleway.

From up here, there were views down to the River Ribble at Sales Wheel. I found it difficult to find the way through the copses but then picked up white markers taking me to the Ribble through Dewhurst Farm with its piles of logs for firewood.

A nice little path through meadows brought me out onto Gallows Lane near those picturesque cottages of Lower Dutton. The origin of the name of the lane possibly goes back to the days when serious miscreants were tried at the town courthouse in the White Bull, Ribchester, and taken to gallows at the upper end of the lane, A sobering thought for maybe stealing a sheep.

*****

The red arrow marks the mill.

THE RIBBLE BETWEEN MITTON AND CLITHEROE.

The clock on the tower of Mitton Church says 4.30. I’m glad I’ve delayed my departure until the sun has come out leaving a beautiful evening for my walk.

I’ve walked the East bank of the Ribble up to Clitheroe several times, it is on the Ribble Way.  I’ve often contemplated walking back down the other side. The problem was there didn’t appear to be a public footpath going south from Edisford Bridge which would mean walking some distance on a busy road.  A closer look at the 1:25,000, however, showed a black dotted field path on that section so maybe there was a way. Time to find out.

Mitton is a rather amorphous district of scattered farms and houses, Great and Little Mitton are separated by the Ribble just north of where the Hodder joins.  Mythe in Old English means the joining of two rivers. The Shireburn family of Stonyhurst were the principal lords.

 All Hallows Church where I parked is in Great Mitton and has C13th origins with a C15th tower. Today it was closed [Covid precautions] so I was unable to visit the interior famous for its Shireburn tombs and wooden artefacts from nearby monasteries. So instead I wandered around the graveyard coming across the sundial dated 1683 and an unusual cross with an ancient C14th rounded head featuring crucifixion carvings. From the graveyard is a lovely view down to the Ribble with proud Pendle Hill in the background.


Neighbouring the church is C16th Great Mitton Hall now smartly renovated with classy gardens visible over the wall. This is not to be confused with Mitton Hall, now a wedding venue, down the road in Little Mitton. The Three Fishes pub opposite the church has been closed for some time now.

I crossed over the Ribble on Mitton Bridge, another classic view of river and hill in heading photo, to reach the temporarily closed Aspinall Arms. This was once a coaching inn known as the Mitton Boat. A ferry boat operated across the River Ribble before the present road bridge was built in the C19th. This was the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire before the reorganisation.

A signed path goes down the side of the inn into fields alongside the River Ribble. There is quite a high banking along here and sand martins were in evidence swooping low over the water ‘chattering’ as they fly past. After a short way, a rather elegant aqueduct crosses the river, the pipes carrying water from Haweswater in the Lakes to Manchester.

A farm road is reached and followed almost to Clitheroe. Taking this photo I managed to get an electric shock from the unseen live wire I was bending over! A calf was brand new in a field and there were new countryside signs on display.

A riverside path continues to Edisford Bridge. It was along here the last time I passed that I had a wonderful view of a Kingfisher. No such luck today as the river is running very fast from all the rain we have endured. The campsite hidden in the trees was packed with people taking advantage of the easing of coronavirus lockdown.

I sat by Edisford Bridge for a drink taking in the scenery. This is a place where there was a ford before the present bridge was constructed, although it goes back to Medieval times. I crossed the bridge and found there was the start of a path going downstream although it wasn’t signed. A muddy section led to a gate into woods, this was now designated a concessionary path so I was confident of a way back.

A long bend of the river was closely followed at the edge of a large meadow. This side of the river was much quieter. A couple of girls were frying some sausages up for a picnic supper in the warm evening sunshine. I met another couple walk in the other way and they assured me of a route back to Mitton. The sand martins were again plentiful. At one point I disturbed a family of mallards which took to the fast-flowing water, I was concerned for the ducklings that seemed to be swept away but they ended up in a calm stretch by the other bank.

Steps led away from the river and a field was crossed signed by large yellow dots. A strange seat carved from a trunk with a couple of Bears was not that comfortable. This brought me onto the Public Footpath having avoided any road walking. Now that was what I would call a sensible concessionary path serving a good purpose and well used.

Stiles led through the lush fields. Looking back there were fine views of Waddington and Newton Fells, all familiar ground. Eventually, a narrow enclosed path brought me out onto the road less than 100 yards from the church.

A very satisfying walk of about 4.5 miles, one I will repeat. Beautiful English countryside and curiosity satisfied.

The clock now read 6.30.

*****

CHIPPING HIGH LANES.

“You deserve a holiday!”  said the email from booking.com.

I’m being bombarded with adverts from holiday organisations desperate for me to spend money with them and fly off in the middle of this pandemic. I’m not fooled by Boris’s assurances of  “air bridges” to avoid quarantine, where is the medical evidence for that? And what may change whilst you are away? The only good outcome of his policy is that the crowds who inundated our beaches will be jumping on planes to take them to the ‘Costas’. They will find the Spanish police know how to administer crowd control with hefty fines and prison sentences.

Anyhow, would you want to sit on the beach with a mask on and then queue for an hour or so for your Sangria?

Homegrown firms [eg Booking.com Airbnb Tripadvisor] are also trying to tempt me away in Britain. I know hotels and B&B’s are in a desperate state but can you imagine how the experience of an otherwise pleasant country house hotel would be at present.

At least some of these firms are advising booking with a cancellation option but even that might not be straight forward, read the small print. Here is Booking.com’s special notice –  For bookings made from 6 April 2020, you should take into account the risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and associated government measures. If you don’t book a flexible rate, you may not be entitled to a refund. We advise you to closely follow any travel advice from your local government and health organisations, and we recommend booking a flexible rate with free cancellation, in case your travel plans need to change.

You’ve guessed it I won’t be going anywhere just yet. Probably not this year if the deadly virus is still about. Let’s wait and see, I’ve successfully shielded for nearly 4 months now so I’m sure I can continue. In answer to booking.com’s suggestion that “I need a holiday” – no I don’t, I’ve had one for the length of lockdown so far.

Maybe though I need a change of scenery. but they sensibly won’t let me into Scotland or Wales just yet. The next best thing this afternoon as the sun comes out is to drive 5 miles to Chipping, olde worlde and mentioned in the Domesday Book. I have a walking route planned around the quiet country lanes. I park near the Church of St. Bartholomew opposite The Sun Inn. This is where my story starts

Lizzie was a maid living in the Sun, in the year 1835. She met up with a local lad who claimed the deepest love for her and proposed to her, she gladly accepted, However, two days before the wedding, James told Lizzie he had fallen in love with her friend Elsie and called off their wedding day. He now planned to marry Elsie in the church opposite.

On the day of the wedding  Lizzie went up to the pub attic overlooking the churchyard, she wrote a suicide note, placed a rope around her neck, and died. The note in her fist read “I want to be buried at the entrance to the church so my lover and my best friend will always have to walk past my grave every time they go to church.”

Her grave is situated near the old entrance – 

But the story doesn’t end there. For almost 200 years the ghost of Lizzie has haunted the Sun Inn and the churchyard opposite. Just ask anyone in the village. There is an old yew tree near her grave which has one branch supported by an iron tripod.

Sorry, I became rather distracted there.

My walk leaves the village up the lane towards former water mills which helped Chipping thrive in the early industrial years. None is working now, Kirk Mill has been preserved but is looking rather forlorn. Originally a corn mill, then a cotton mill it ended its life as part of the Berry Chair Works. Its large crane was used to unload timber from the lorries. The cottages surrounding it were still used by workers when I moved into the area in the ’70s. It eventually closed its doors in 2010. Above the main building is the large mill lodge famous nowadays for its ducks.

The narrow lane continues steeply up the hillside passing the site of Tweedy’s Mill, a former foundry and previously a cotton mill. Now there is housing and Proctor’s Cheeses. At one time there were half a dozen water mills on this section of Chipping Brook.

Brief glimpses of the fells appear through the trees. Above Wolfen Mill, an old bobbin mill, I take the lane into the fells. I chase butterflies up the hill and buy some free-range eggs at the stall on Saddle Side farm track.

Red Admiral.

Today I’m not going further into the fells so I turn down a newly tarmacked route to Windy Hills Farm where there is a recent barn conversion, presumably they have paid for the road improvement. At the moment it looks out of place up here but it provides a warm bed for the lambs. Onwards on the familiar track to the extensive sheep rearing Laund Farm with views opening up to Waddington Fell, Pendle Hill and Longridge Fell.  Laund was the ancient word for an open space for deer and I now walk down through it, admiring the mature trees and lush greenery, part of the Leagram Estate. A perfect evening.

Back in Chipping, I walk up to the Sun Inn where the story started.


*****

 

 

 

CARR SIDE CATCHUP.

My last post looking at Carr Side Fishing Lakes left an unanswered question which some of you were concerned about. Does the public footpath continue past the lakes?

True to my word I was back there today to find out. Nobody had used the footpath down the field and with all the rain the little beck was overflowing, I managed to get my feet wet trying to jump it. I pushed through the gate as before and this time with jeans on battled through the nettles with indifference. The water’s edge seemed devoid of birds, perhaps they had heard me coming.

The map shows the FP going straight through the lakes, something I wasn’t prepared to do. So I followed the fishermen’s trail to the right past their little wooden hut. There was nobody about. I now came across a couple of green painted waymarks which I had missed before so I knew I was probably OK. Some rough ground was traversed above the first lake before dropping onto the trail around the second lake. Another waymark guided me to the exit gate through the boundary fence and out of the private property.

I was now in a small paddock which led to a conspicuous stile, another swollen stream was difficult to cross but then I could complete a short circular walk with no trouble. I passed the two Carr Side Farms and walked back along the road.

So I have to report there is no obstruction to the FP and in fact it is well waymarked and easy to follow. All the minor difficulties are in the adjoining fields where I ended up with wet feet!

Full marks to Carr Side Fishing Lakes.

 

Since I was last out the frothy heads of Meadowsweet seems to have come into bloom and there fragrance was noticeable in the hedgerows. I can still smell it now.

…IT’S EXERCISE AFTER ALL.

When I pulled my curtains open this morning at about 7am people were already taking their daily exercise. They were the wise ones as the forecast was for the hottest day of the year by this afternoon. I considered, indeed almost succumbed to a quick breakfast and away. But no my daily sloth had me back in bed with the first coffee of the morning. I seem to be getting through vast amounts of ground coffee, there is another delivery expected tomorrow morning.

A second coffee followed as I sorted through my emails etc. A friend living in France has been in severe lockdown but now because of their diligence is allowed out to live more or less normally. He sent me a recent picture of his 3-month scruffy beard.

My enthusiasm for exercise fluctuates with the day, At the weekend I did a couple of decent walks. Yesterday I could not even summon the effort to drive across to East Lancs to climb with my friends – I’m still not convinced about keeping to 2m social isolation on such escapades.

Today would have been lovely up on Parlick and Fairsnape but I haven’t yet got my head around the risk factors of high moorland walking. Last week a group of people I know, local fell runners, had a simple run up Beacon Fell which ended up with a helicopter rescue of one of them. I know I’m becoming paranoid. All the excitement and hullabaloo of opening shops and pubs passes me by. Note that the medical establishment, which the politicians are casting aside, have issued warnings of progressing out of lockdown too rapidly. So I’ll be keeping to my relative shielding and the 2 metres distancing for a few more weeks until I can see we may have turned a corner.

So where do I go today?

Yes, you have guessed it – Longridge Fell. I opt for a simple circuit around the lanes up and down from Longridge onto the western half of the fell.

My enthusiasm increases with every few hundred feet of climbing. I take a keen interest in the flora on the verges. There is virtually no traffic to disturb me. I watch butterflies flitting over the flowers and marvel at the dedication some photographers must have to produce even the simplest of shots. See https://beatingthebounds.wordpress.com/ for an idea of what can be achieved locally.

At the point where the road went left, I decided to carry on and pick up tracks leading to the trig point. By now I was walking freely and could have continued for miles to the east with no way of getting home. As I climbed higher the heather which a week ago was nondescript was beginning to flower. I suspect this summer with all the moisture and now the heat we should have a good display on the fells. There is nothing finer than a purple hillside. Oh and I noticed a few small bilberries beginning to appear – get out the pie-dish.

Ir was only when I was on the summit ridge that I met anybody. A man with two young girls who had been collecting sheep’s wool, the oldest, about 5, suggested her mother could make a sheep out of it which seemed perfectly reasonable. A young man looking for a different way off the fell, no he didn’t have a map. I sent him on his way with precise directions but I had doubts as to his navigational skills. A young couple, new to the area, taking selfies on the edge of the escarpment with Chipping Vale below and the Bowland Fells in the background.

Reaching the car park I was admiring a modern smart fourth-generation Mazda MX 5, [I have a 15-year-old Second Generation convertible.] It turned out to belong to the young couple so we had an extended conversation on a wide variety of topics before they sped off down to Chipping with the wind in their hair.

I was now on my homeward stretch down past the golf course with hazy Longridge ahead. I reached the little reservoir at the top of Longridge where I was on the lookout for grebes which often nest here. Some youngsters had climbed over the wall and were settling into a picnic above the water’s edge, all strictly private water board land. I jokingly admonished them for trespassing and said they didn’t want to be caught there when the water bailiff came around. I’d only walked about 50 yards when round the corner came the Waterboard van which stopped and gave a severe telling off to the youths who slinked away looking rather crestfallen.

By the time I reached home, it was far too hot to contemplate gardening.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be away with the larks.

*****

 

 

 

BEACON FELL BY THE BACK DOOR.

I knew Beacon Fell car parks would be full on a Saturday. I knew Brock Bottoms car parks would also be full. The Covid-19 crisis is bringing everybody out into the countryside, no doubt the coast as well. Shouldn’t we be encouraged by all these people exercising in the countryside? Well no – the amount of litter I saw today and the inconsiderate and illegal parking problems were distressing and that was on a walk when I tried to avoid the hot spots. I’m becoming more and more disillusioned with the British public the longer this lockdown carries on. Selfish and ignorant people are certainly spoiling it for the rest of us. Rant over – almost.

Having said all that I’ve just enjoyed a lovely evening’s walk without meeting hardly a soul, although I came close.

For a change of scenery, I wanted to visit Beacon Fell. I often walk there and back from home on field paths in a round of 12 miles but today I only had a few hours to spare late in the day. Consulting the map I reckoned I could walk along the Brock River and climb up to the fell without encountering the crowds.

Having parked my car on a quiet lane about 5 miles drive from home I set off at 4pm. The lane dropped me down to the River Brock near the popular car park. There were cars parked all over on double yellow lines as an overflow from the official carpark. The noise from the throngs of people by the river was all-pervading. Picnics, barbecues and drinking was the name of the game, all crammed together on the riverside. I’ve never understood the idea of bringing all your urban trappings into the countryside, but maybe they don’t have gardens or parks at home.

My plan was to walk upstream on little paths by the river and in fields, I never met another person – what a contrast. The Brock was fairly low after the dry weather we have had. I saw a couple of Dippers but otherwise all the birds were anonymous, singing hidden in the trees. The path is good with duckboards over the boggy areas. A solitary cottage is passed well isolated from the virus. Onwards through woods just above the river. An old ford in the Brock is reached at the bottom of Snape Rake Lane, there is a footbridge alongside.  I can remember driving down here once many years ago,  fording the river awkwardly in my landrover to drive up the other side only to find the gate at the top locked. A quick turn around and retreat had me coming back through the difficult ford rather red-faced.  My reckless years. Today I was content to sit and look at the peaceful scene.

Climbing away from the river up the steep lane brought me into the woods high above the river.

I then followed quiet lanes up the northern side of Beacon Fell with improving views of the Bleasdale Hills. In the hedgerows tall Foxgloves, white Bramble flowers and wild Dog Roses were in profusion.

I knew a forest break that cut back right up the slopes of Beacon Fell. After the natural woods alongside the Brock, this appeared sterile and eerily silent.

At the top was the friendly old crocodile carving studded with coins.

I was soon at the trig point without meeting anybody.

Although on the way down towards the car park and cafe people were wandering about. it was here that I started coming across blatant littering less than 100m from bins. Obviously, the culprits expect someone else to come along later and clear it all up. The cafe and toilets remain closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

My way off the fell was through the Memorial Forest where you can purchase a plot and a tree as your fitting memory. Another memorial was a field of native trees donated by a former Countryside Ranger, a simple inscribed stone commemorated the gift.

Buzzards were flying above on the evening thermals.

A previously coppiced beech wood was traversed out onto the lane where my car was parked.

Well satisfied with that circuit,

*****

 

BLEASDALE BELONGS TO ME.

Do you remember those summer evenings after a day in the hills?  The day’s heat floating in the air. The stillness, no wind except for perhaps a gentle breeze wafting some floral scents from below.  The low light is diffused, the summits hazy. Maybe the odd midge or two disturbing your sun flushed face and arms. The stove is purring with the prospect of soup. All is well.

Last night if I closed my eyes I was there.

I was actually in Bleasdale enjoying a stroll around the estate roads. This area is much quieter than Longridge Fell and as I walked through I felt I was the only person on the planet.  It was a perfect evening and I savoured the warm sunshine which brought out those memories of summers past.

It is ironic that this has probably been one of the best few months for backpacking in many years and here we are in lockdown. Still, if I can have Bleasdale to myself  I’m not complaining.

SOMETIMES.

I found this slate poem tonight, the latest one I’ve come across on Longridge Fell during this Covid pandemic.

Sometimes – Sheenagh Pugh.

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

 

I was at the far end of the fell, once more seeking solitude. Dark clouds were gathering and I set off up a sidetrack more in hope than optimism. I was not very optimistic about staying dry but I hoped I would.  One can be pessimistic but hopeful at the same time. The above poem, by Sheenagh Pugh, expresses similar ideas I think.

It was only a short walk to clear my head, there were some large drops of rain for a short time but I was back at the car before the forecast storm.  A triumph of hope over optimism.

*****

The slow progress out of this pandemic is of concern to me especially as lockdown is being lifted quickly without good medical evidence. There are still a significant number of daily deaths and the magic R number is struggling to stay under 1.  Boris wants us all to go shopping next week, that shows where his priorities lie – certainly not with the vulnerable in our society.

My optimism for a successful outcome is dwindling – I will just have to hope from now on.

 

LONGRIDGE FELL – UP AND OVER.

Eddie Waring commentated in his thick Yorkshire accent on Rugby League games in the ’60s and ’70s, one of his utterings “it’s an up and under” became almost a catchphrase. Planning this evening’s walk I wanted to push myself a little to see if my breathing had improved. For about a month or so I became breathless with the slightest of exertions which was rather disturbing, a persistent cough did not fill me with confidence either. I had a feeling I was on the mend so I needed some uphill walking. I had Eddie’s phrase at the back of my mind when I decided on an up and over walk across Longridge Fell. I’ve survived about 1000ft of ascent without too much stopping so I consider it a success.

The start of the up was on the south side of the fell, the over took me down the north side which left me with another up and over to complete the evening. The evening turned out sunny and calm with clear views in all directions, perfect walking conditions.

Although I’m trying my best to isolate myself from humanity and the lurking virus a few chance encounters enlivened the walk.

A few hundred yards through the rapidly growing plantation brings one to a little beck, Brownslow Brook. This is a favourite place of mine where the water tumbles out of the trees under a couple of wooden bridges before disappearing once again to emerge at the road to head down to Hurst Green as Dean Brook. I crossed it several times on my last outing. I often brought my boys here for dam building practice and have continued the ritual with my grandchildren. Tonight a couple were throwing sticks into the water for their Spaniel to retrieve, they were trying to wash off the dirt he had gathered from falling into a peat bog earlier. All three of them seemed to be enjoying the game.

Steeper climbing followed passing my favourite Beech tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above the path winds upwards through recently felled land and someone has been at work creating a mountain bike track with curves and jumps incorporated, it looked great fun.

On cresting the ridge you enter thicker mature woodland where in the past I have enjoyed several nights wild camping. I was aiming for the path going off the fell when I heard thumping noises just below. I ventured into the trees to investigate and found three pleasant young lads creating a steep downhill MB track. They were hard at work with spades and rakes. What a contrast to the youths inundating and despoiling our other beauty spots on recent weekends. I wished them well and will check on their progress next time I’m passing.

I found my own less steep rake going down the north side of the fell. It was an utter delight with the Vale of Chipping spread out below and the Bowland Hills in the background. [Header photo] Easy walking took me past Rakefoot Farm and out onto the Chaigley Road. I only had to walk a couple of hundred yards before a footpath sign pointed the way for my next up and over. This path had not been walked very often and degenerated into an assault course through nettles and brambles. Just when I thought I’d overcome the worst it turned into more of a stream than a path. My attention wandered to the flora beneath my feet and I was impressed by some of the smallest flowers I’ve seen. Minute water forget-me-nots and an unidentified even tinier chickweed type flower.  Trying to photo them with my phone was another matter.

At last, I was back on the open fell and climbing a definite rake without undue breathlessness. Once again there were minute flowers beneath my feet, one of the Bedstraws. As I had had enough ascent I did not feel the need to divert the short distance to the trig point. I did have time for one last backward view of Chipping Vale Bathed in the evening light. I then crossed the ridge and headed back into the forest for the downhill bit. The forest seemed empty and I made good progress on familiar tracks.

That was until I was further down and I came across the aftermath of last week’s forest fire. I was uncertain as to its whereabouts until now. Fire breaks had been created to prevent the fire from spreading. What a valiant effort from the firefighters otherwise the whole of the forest could have been lost. I chatted to a local who was also investigating the scene, we are not sure that the cause has been identified yet.

MEN Media

*****

On the way home I came across another of those inspiring poems inscribed on a slate that someone has been leaving around the fell.

“This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.”

John O’Donohue.

 

At the end of the walk I felt I’d found my feet and the air was kind.

*****

PENDLE TONIGHT.

The Lancashire countryside looks so clean with Pendle in the background.

I’ve been out for a short walk this beautiful evening. Can’t reveal where. Whilst we are in lockdown is an ideal time to go trespassing to local places I’ve always been intrigued by.

but I’ve still not found what I’m looking for…

THE HIDDEN CROSS.

When I was out the other evening I discussed the Stonyhurst Crosses and mentioned I’d spotted another one nearby marked on the map.

The cross was not marked precisely and appeared to be in the middle of a plantation with no obvious access. Aerial views didn’t show it.   I could find no reference to it in Stonyhurst’s history.

As it is just a short ride up the hill and they have opened the roads after the plantation fires I went for a quick look this afternoon. I was able to hop over the wall near the water catchment plant on Brownslow Brook. Two more walls and I was in the plantation. There has been recent felling and replanting so the going was difficult. I made for the highest point and there amongst some mature trees was the cross. An old-looking base supporting a well carved more modern stone cross. There were no inscriptions.

Close by there was evidence of previous game bird breeding, enclosures and feeding stations, but no other sign of human passage. I fought my way through the plantation to make my escape. It is going to be difficult to incorporate this unnamed cross into my planned walk around the “Stonyhurst Crosses”

DISTRACTED IN THE WOODS.

                                                       The River Hodder from the Higher Bridge.

The roads at this end of  Longridge Fell were still closed as they damped down the forest fires so I drove to the far end and parked near Higher Hodder Bridge. My plan was a short evening walk up to Kemple End quarry for a bit of bouldering.

I always enjoy the path through the trees above the Hodder. The spring foliage on the trees cut out some of the river views. Normally I spot herons, kingfishers and dippers on this stretch but not tonight.  But I was enjoying the way so much that I ignored the intended path that would have taken me up the fell and I continued along the river.

A mother and her two children were engrossed in the river.

The path at one point climbs away from the river and I knew of the cross in the woods on this stretch, Stonyhurst Park Cross stands above the River Hodder close to the former preparatory school, Hodder Place [now apartments]. A new cross was fixed to the ancient base in 1910, and was blessed on 12 June 1910 by the Jesuit provincial, Father Sykes; the origin of the earlier monument is unknown.

[This set me thinking – I had passed the Pinfold Cross near Stockbridge yesterday and I knew of two more crosses possibly related to Stonyhurst. Saint Paulinus’ Cross near Kemple End and Cross Gills Farm Cross near the Ribble. There is some evidence that pupils of Stonyhurst would walk between the four crosses on Palm Sunday. That seemed a ready-made walk for me to follow. But looking at the map I found another unnamed cross in the woods near SD672398 and there is a cross of uncertain age in Hurst Green. Watch this space.]

Today I noticed a faint path leading up into the woods behind the cross which I followed to some steep old steps. I climbed up these higher into the trees where I found another little path heading onwards. I imagined I would be able to cut across directly to Kemple End but at the edge of the woods were barbed wire fences and ahead unknown fields with what looked like one of those glamping developments. I did have a good view of Pendle from up here above the trees before I retreated all the way back down to the cross.

I knew the accepted footpath out of the woods up lots of steps and into fields leading to Stonyhurst, this is part of the now popular Tolkien Trail.

So I found myself on the lane around the college. It was a beautiful sunny evening and I wandered on. I became a little lost again in the fields but found my way up to Kemple End, it had taken me longer than I thought to reach here. There were the usual good views, particularly to Whalley Viaduct prominent below the Nab and the Hameldon Hills in the background.

A short walk down the lane and  I was back in fields heading towards the river. Halfway down my phone rang and while I took the rather long call I found a nice grassy area in the sunshine to lie down on. Later a bit further on I was crossing the footbridge which replaced a stone clapper bridge and wanted to take a photo. I realised I’d lost my camera, probably while I’d been reclining. I  retraced my steps and then spent a good 15minutes combing the slope I’d been on before I spotted the camera.

 

The old clapper bridge.

I was soon back at Higher Hodder Bridge. I hadn’t really met anyone, perfect.

*****

 

LONGRIDGE FELL – THREE QUESTIONS ANSWERED.

Mr and Mrs Stonyhurst.

Another walk on the quiet side of the Longridge Fell.

As I write this there is a large fire blazing in a plantation somewhere up there possibly even on this route from the other day. I assure you I did not have any part in its genesis.

I  don’t have any questions on my mind as I stroll down the bridleway past Crowshaw House. The crowds have gone the other way up onto Longridge Fell on the forestry tracks so I have my paths to myself. I’m tempted to trespass and have a look at the hidden lake which is part of the Stonyhurst Estate, another time maybe. So on past buttresssed Greengore, an ancient shooting lodge which I’ve photographed many times. A little stile, which could easily be missed, on the left, leads to a faint path through the trees and down to cross Dean Brook by a footbridge. Up the other side, you come out into fields by Higher Deer House, another sign of the estate’s deer park from the past.

Stonyhurst College on the lower slopes of Longridge Fell has a long history first as a private estate of the Shireburn family and then as a Catholic College. The village of Hurst Green is an integral neighbour of the estate,

I follow the track out to the road and immediately come face to face with the Pinfold Cross with its ominous inscription – ‘WATCH FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY NOR HOUR.’

I’ve often stopped to read this but have not noticed the other inscription above  ‘OFT EVENINGS GLAD MAKE MORNINGS SAD’ and more importantly on the left ‘PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF JAMES WELLS’  and on the right ‘DIED FEB. 12TH, 1834′ This extra information allowed me to track down the origins of the cross – a memorial to a former servant at Stonyhurst College and fiddler, James Wells, who fell to his death in a quarry nearby. I never knew that so I have answered one of my outstanding questions already about Stonyhurst.

Down the lane before Stockbridge Cottages, properties of the college, I pick up a well-trodden path heading up the fell towards Kemple End quarries. This appears as a sunken track and I’ve heard possibly that it was a trackway used for bringing stone down from the quarries to Hurst Green for the construction of parts of Stonyhurst. Today the local farmer was out checking his fences and was keen to chat. So question two – what was the track for? Yes, he explained it was a sledge way pulled by horses from the quarry. The barn at the bottom which I had just passed was used for stabling the horses.

Another query I had was about the Almshouses in Hurst Green which were apparently built high on Longridge Fell and at some later date moved stone by stone and re-erected in the village. That was a known fact but I often wondered where they had been on the Fell originally. The farmer supplied his answer that they had been just above the road near Leeming quarry in an area known as the Blue Lagoon. That seems feasible.

Hurst Green Almshouses.

Original site.

The Blue Lagoon.

 

Once up at Kemple End I had a short drink’s break and contemplated which way to take back to my car, along the road or the slightly longer and higher forest tracks. Obviously, the latter was chosen. I was wandering slowly up the zigzags looking at the flora when a young man caught me up. Keeping to our regulation 2m social distancing we chatted for a while. He had set himself a challenge for his lockdown period, 50 hills within walking distance of Clitheroe. I enthused about his project and wished him well.

My favourite cottage at Kemple End.

A few more people were using these forest tracks but it was easy to keep clear of them, is this how paranoia starts? A friend came by on his mountain bike with his 3year old son riding high at the front, his wife followed on using an electric mountain bike.

I had enjoyed a leisurely 6mile stroll on a busy weekend avoiding most of humanity and discovered a few more pieces of local history.

 

 

*****

OUT WITH THE LARK.

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,                                                                                                     George Meredith.

It was that sort of morning. I wasn’t exactly up with the lark but they were singing on high as I set off up the fell. The sky hanging above the heather was blue with a few wisps of white cloud, a lark sky if ever I saw one.

I strolled up the slope, my breathing has been laboured recently. My mood lifted with every step. The Vale of Chipping has taken on a new life as fields are cut and the patchwork of colours intensifies. It is good to see the progress of agriculture down there from up here.

The trig point is reached with little effort. How many times have I been up here? How many times have I photographed the pillar against the background of the Bowland Fells? The Yorkshire three peaks are in haze.

I wander on and dive into the dark forest on a track I know brings me out above the Ribble Valley. The warm scent of the new pine needles is intoxicating. Memories of Alpine days drift by.

I forget to look at Pendle as my gaze is down to the little reservoir where I saw the Canada Goose chicks the other day. The same cuckoo is calling somewhere in the trees and the same Stonechat singing on his wall perch.

Is this next bird a Meadow Pipit or a Skylark?  [no obvious crest] I’m back at the car after a magic hour and a half. I used to run that stretch in about 20minutes. Today I was happy to take in the skies and the larks.

*****

BROADENED HORIZONS.

Covid-19 Bank holiday beach Bournemouth.

My horizon for the last two months has been the fields at the back of my house with the Bowland  Fells in the background. I stayed in completely for the first four weeks or so and then only ventured out at quiet times on circumscribed local footpaths and lanes. The advice on lockdown changed for all of us, not just Dominic Cummings, a week or so ago. Hence the rush to the tourist hotspots and what looked to me like civil disorder. I was in no rush to follow.

Today I had a little job to do on the edge of the village, pin up a notice from the BMC relating to Covid19 risks on the gate leading into Craig Y Longridge, the local bouldering crag. So out came the car for the first time in weeks for a trip up there. The notice was in place but I for one won’t be going there to climb for some time as it is just like an indoor climbing wall with social distancing difficult and repeated use of the same holds by one and all.

Anyhow as I was out I thought I would drive further up the fell to a quiet parking spot, away from the bank holiday crowds, for a short walk with a change of scenery.

I parked by the temporarily closed New Drop Inn and for awhile watched the house martins flying back and forth to their nests under the eaves. I’m not sure whether I managed a photo or not with my snap and shoot camera.

The best I could do.

A little way down the road a footpath sign pointed into a field. From the map, the path crosses the field diagonally but the grass was very long and nobody had ventured across. I decided instead to follow the top boundary where there had been a tractor. All went well and gates gave access to more fields until I was stopped by barbed wire which was easily circumvented to put me onto the right of way.  This was no clearer but I kept finding broken stiles and gates leading to the industrial/agricultural buildings of Hougher Fall Farm, now restyled romantically as Bowland Forest Eggs. I made my escape to the Old Clitheroe Road. it had taken me over half an hour to walk half a mile but I’d enjoyed the exploration.

No obvious path.

Make your own way.

Back on track?

 

Escape.

I remembered a track going off left from near here past an old reservoir. The gate was just down the road and propped up next to it a slate with a lovely handwritten poem by a Kathleen Jamie which I rather liked.

Through the gate and just off the track is the little reservoir where I watched a pair of Canada Geese paddling across the water with their six chicks.  I was watching them when a female pheasant walked by with a couple of chicks.

Across rough ground were some grassed over quarries, marked on the map as Gannow Quarry. I imagined I’d spotted a climbable rock face but when I’d walked up to investigate it was only six feet high. I assume these small quarries were opened up for the reservoir construction.

Lennox Farm is being knocked about and extended. I’d reached the lane going up to the kennels and onto Longridge Fell, I was feeling breathless, hayfever?  and I almost aborted the walk by turning downhill back to the road. Something made me turn left and carry on up onto the fell, puffing all the way. It was worth it for the hazy views over the Ribble Valley and the mature pines.

I met the first people of the day on the edge of the forest. Three mountain bikers up from Preston who seemed totally oblivious to the present crisis – “nothing  to worry about mate”

Walking down by the fell wall I stopped to listen to my first cuckoo of the year and a finch? landed on the wall in front of me.

Back at the Newdrop I came across another poem slate this time a poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Are there more about?  There seems to be an environmental theme possibly related to our present viral problems. I will keep my eyes open for them.

A strange walk really, I just followed my nose and pottered along taking in whatever came by and more came along than expected.  Yet another Covid-19 local walk of exploration and enlightenment.

*****

 

 

 

TIME IS PASSING BY.

It is probably a week since I last walked any of my regular local routes. The weather was perfect today so I even got going before lunchtime. In the strange days we are living in, time has become warped and I have almost arrived at the position of ignoring it. That’s not all that different from my usual lifestyle. I’ve been setting a bi-weekly quiz for some friends during the lockdown and one of them commented today that if it wasn’t for the regular Thursday and Sunday questions he wouldn’t know which day of the week it was.

Since I was last out the countryside has subtly changed. The lambs have grown fatter, the grass has grown longer and the flowers have moved into another cycle. Gone are the bluebells, sorrel and primroses and more colour is now evident in the hedgerows with stitchwort, buttercups, vetch,  ragged robin and blue speedwells.

Comfrey and Cow Parsley.

Red Campion.

Buttercup.

Stitchwort, chickweed.

 

Speedwell.

The hawthorn has flowered replacing the blackthorn and what is noticeable is the sweet aroma from it. Its blossoming marks the point at which spring turns into summer, and the old saying ‘Cast ne’er a clout ere May is out’ almost certainly refers to the opening of hawthorn flowers rather than the end of the month.

Hawthorn.

The small amounts of road I have to walk on are a nightmare with some of the worst driving I’ve witnessed for a while. I read that the police are out to catch speeding drivers this weekend at the worst hotspots.

With the weather being so good I joined several of my local field paths together and ended up doing about 6 miles without noticing the time. There is no end to lockdown, as far as I’m concerned, so I’ll probably write up the same walk next week and wonder where the time has gone. But nature marches on and there will be changes underfoot to remind me of the passing year, a year I’ve all but written off for getting away.

*****