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.
I don’t often stand on the summit of Parlick Pike. If I’m heading up to Fairsnape and beyond, I take the easier traversing path bypassing it to the west, overlooking Bleasdale. But today I’m following another of Mark Sutcliffe’s walks from his Cicerone guide. I’m having a lazy week and doing walks without any planning on my part, just follow the guide step by step. Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman and scholar. His extensive writings showed learning and eloquence and the term Cicerone, to guide and explain, came to be. Hence, the name of the guidebook dynasty started by Walt Unsworth and Brian Evans.
So I’m stood on the pike, 432m, the wind is trying to blow me off it, but the sky is clear, and the sun is bright. A perfect Spring day. The hard work is done, I can enjoy the rest of the afternoon on one of my favourite walks. This circuit used to be my once a week fell run years ago, I’m just pleased that I arrived here today without stopping, well apart from those sneaky photo stops. Strangely, I nearly always did it the other way around – I’ve looked into the reasons for choice of route recently.
Down into the dip and then a choice of routes either side of the wall, dogs one side and not the other, but I never understood which or why. The wall is a masterpiece of construction, stretching up towards the summit of Fairsnape. I remember once seeing a squirrel running along the top of it, bound for Fiensdale?, there is not a tree in sight along the ridge. These walls and fences are excellent handrails when the fell is in thick mist, which it often is. The wind is too strong for the parapenters or gliders, so I have the space and the views down into the bowl of Bleasdale to myself.
The grass has taken on that dry straw colour regularly seen after the winter months when the sun shines on the steep slopes. I was so taken by it a few years ago that I asked a local artist, Rebecca Wilmer, if she could interpret it on canvas. She knew exactly what I meant, and in fact had some slides she had taken of the very hillside matching mine. A commission was agreed, and I proudly have the painting in my living room, not everyone sees it in my eyes or the artist’s, but I saw it up here today.
There is a distant haze from the summit of Fairsnape, 510m, but I know where Blackpool Tower, Morecambe Power Station, the Isle of Man and Black Coombe should be, so I don’t have to linger in the biting wind. Shapes emerge from the summit shelter, where they have been enjoying a sheltered lunch. I was last up here in June last year, when I spent a cold night bivvying near the cairn. But of course this is not ‘the summit’, to visit it you have to run the gauntlet of the local peat bogs in an easterly direction until some stone flags appear leading you to the highest point, 520m. Since my last visit, a large cairn has been built and there is a board telling you how efforts are being made to stabilise the peat hags and reduce the water run off.
It’s all downhill, literally, from here. A good manufactured path leads to a fence from where sunken tracks head on down Saddle Side. I pass the ruin with a tragic history. It is good to be out of the wind, skylarks are singing and once the fields are reached the sound of curlews and lapwings stir strong memories of the upland countryside of my youth. A dip into the valley of Chipping Brook and then the Wolfen estate road leads me back to my car. Wolfen Hall lies below Wolf Fell – possibly the last stronghold of wolves into the C15th.
I followed Cicerone’s guide easily, but I had to branch off to visit the highest point. Mark does not include this in his instructions, but his map does. Ah well, people will find their own way.
Decision time – straight up.
Parlick summit with Fairsnape behind.
That dry yellow grass.
Fairsnape summit’s furniture.
Boot sucking peat.
A reminder that the area was once a military firing range.
Point 520 m, with Totridge Fell in the distance.
The tragic scene on Saddleside.
Spring in the valley.
Artistic impression from Parlick. Rebecca Walmer. 2010.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by accessible fells giving good local walking, but at the moment I’m restricted to cycling, so I’m making the best of any opportunity for exercise whilst the sun shines. Today’s ride took me around the Bleasdale lanes without much climbing up the fells. However, I was surprised that when I plotted the route later, I’d climbed a thousand feet. It didn’t feel like that, there must have been lots of gradual ascents in low gear. Throughout the day I was treated to fine views of the Bleasdale Fells, Beacon Fell and on the run into home Longridge Fell.
Within four miles I was cycling through Inglewhite with its C17th market cross and then down across the River Brock into Claughton, a scattered parish by the motorway. Somewhere in the middle of it is Claughton Hall, but I only saw the western gate lodge. Up the lane was a medieval cross, at least its gritstone base.
On the map there was a lane taking me in the right direction, but it turned out to be trickier than I thought, and I ended up walking the last uphill half, all very pleasant though.
I was soon on familiar roads skirting the Bleasdale Estate, with the fells all around me.
The ‘back’ of Beacon Fell.
Fairsnape and Parlick.
I stopped for a break and was joined by a party of horse riders from a nearby trecking centre. In the field to my left were dozens of dogs running about, some sort of canine day nursery. The staff didn’t seem very friendly when I stopped to look, perhaps they are wary of dog thefts at present.
Next it was mainly downhill on convoluted lanes with Longridge Fell ahead. I live at the base of the fell, so no further climbing was needed.
The sun was a cold November grey by the time I pulled into home. Another simple 20 miles through Lancashire’s countryside.
The concept is straight forward: walk up Fairsnape, watch the sun set, bivvy, watch the sun rise, walk down.
That is precisely what I did last night. After supper, I drove out to Chipping and parked up under Parlick Fell. I know I should have walked, but it was a last minute decision. Several other cars were parked up, either late off the hill or with the same idea as me.
The lane to Fell Foot, Longridge Fell behind.
I trudged my way around the Western flanks of Parlick and onto the ridge leading easily to the trig point on Fairsnape. 510 m. My suspicions were correct, there were already two tents pitched near the top. A couple of lads out from Preston. A few more people wandered about and disappeared.
Where are you going?
I found a soft flat spot for my bivvy just east of the summit. Making a careful note in my mind as to its position.
I returned to the trig to photo the sunset over Morecambe Bay and Black Coombe. It could have been better.
I returned to my bivvy for a flask of tea and an early night, I don’t remember it getting really dark. The next thing it was after 4am, and I was awake. I got up and paced about in the cold wind waiting for the sunrise. It could have been better, although the light over Ingleborough was special.
Whernside and Ingleborough, 4.15am.
I decided to get back into my sleeping bag to get warm before walking down, and before I knew it the clock showed eight. Packed up at last I set off down and used the zigzags towards Higher Fairsnape. There was nobody about, so I took a more direct line to join the path above Blindhurst Farm and back to Fell Foot. Only near there did I meet the early birds going up.
Top of the Zigzags.
Looking back to my descent.
First met in the morning, they should have had a good day.
You just had to be out these last three days, perfect dry and sunny conditions. I managed three walks and enjoyed blue skies each day on the lanes around Longridge. Below is a snapshot of each day.
For the trip around Bleasdale I met up with Mike and despite the forecast of below zero temperatures there was no wind so it felt almost like a spring day. We extended the walk from Bleasdale Tower to Delph Lane as we were enjoying the conditions so much. I’m glad we did as it gave a sighting of a barn owl flying low in front of us. The coast looked very near in the clear conditions.
The next day I had just intended to follow the road loop up onto Longridge Fell, but I couldn’t resist the continuation up to the trig point and into the forest, the usually boggy terrain was frozen solid. The Bowland Hills are virtually clear of snow whereas Pendle looks plastered. On the return I wandered into plantations at Cowley Brook, I had seen cars parked here previously, and I found new leisure tracks opened up by the water board, I will have to visit again for a full exploration.
Today I drove a short distance out of town and walked the quiet lanes up to Beacon Fell, there were a few people about near the summit but I virtually had the place to myself. All was still and peaceful. I wonder if we will get any more snow this winter?
You may have noticed I’m out most days, weather permitting, walking in the area. Opposite my house is a new housing development and the heavy diggers start at 7am every morning, my house shakes as they lumber around. So I’m awake, drinking coffee and keen to get away from the noise.
Today the sun was shining and the forecast good. Enough of the mud, I’m going to walk around the lanes. I stop to deliver an Xmas card and climbing magazines at a friend who is working from home, we chat on the doorstep as is the norm.
In the front garden of a house opposite is a strange ornament….
… and on the corner is an old cross base, Stump Cross. A plaque states it was placed there in 1931 after being dug up nearby, the cross is a modern addition. There are two other cross bases nearby that are difficult to find in hedges. Eaves Green and Hill Chapel. https://megalithix.wordpress.com/category/crosses/
There were more horses on the lane than cars this morning.
Opposite the inn across the road is an old type gents’ urinal, I don’t expect it gets a lot of use these days.
That’s enough of the curiosities, the lane marches out towards the Bleasdale fells and gives good views of Beacon Fell, Parlick with Fairsnape in cloud and Longridge Fell. Quite a panorama enjoyed from this quiet road. The black metal gate in the last picture denotes the route of the Hodder Aqueduct coming from Slaidburn Reservoir taking water to the Blackpool and The Fylde. Earlier in the day I had passed metal gates which accompany the Thirlmere Aqueduct to Manchester.
Around the next corner I was confronted by a muck spreader working from the road, I smelt it long before I saw it. I was a little apprehensive at getting alongside but fortunately the wind was in the right direction and the most of the slurry ended up in the field.
I arrived back on the main road at The Derby Arms, another pub now closed. From there it was a brisk walk into Longridge by which time a road in the development was taking shape. That field which less than a year ago had rows of hedges and trees, a natural habitat for hundreds of birds and small mammals; even where, in the past, I have watched deer strolling around.
My last visit to Calder Vale was in February just before the lockdowns commenced. Almost a whole year gone when I have been restricted by one Covid measure or another, its grim up North. That day I walked through the yard of Cobble Hey who run a popular farm café, they were due to open the next day for the season. Speaking to a girl there today they have been barely able to function at all, the customers just disappeared. She was hoping for better things next year.
The route I had planned for today had me approaching the Calder from above using paths untravelled. I parked at the summit of Stang Yule, the road linking my area to Dolphinholme across the edge of the Bleasdale Hills. All was grey all around me. The distant Fylde Coast a blur and the surrounding fell tops uninviting.
At the first farm I came to, Rough Moor, a couple were planting a new hawthorn hedge, well over 600 plants, I admired their enthusiasm and the renovated farm and barns will become desirable country living advertised in Lancashire Life. At least they had provided good stiles and waymarking around the property. As you walk down the hillside there is no clue that below is the once thriving mill village. I passed a few more smart houses before walking through the grounds of St. John’s Church and adjoining school. The church and school were built in this rather isolated position as they served both the Calder Vale and Oakenclough communities. A path leads down through the woods into Calder Vale, I wonder how many children still walk this way to school each day.
There is plenty to see in the village which always seems busy because of the working mill in the centre, There are remnants of the water power from the Calder, workers’ cottages, Methodist Chapel, manager’s house and the large Lappet Mill itself. The post office and village shop have closed and there is no sign of the Temperance Hotel. I left your Christmas presents under the tree.
I departed the village by a stile and age-old stone steps onto a lane linking to farms on the fell above. They all had a sad and unkempt look about them on this grey day.
Lots of wet fields led me to Cobble Hey which as I said was deserted and I certainly didn’t expect to meet this Juggernaut on a narrow farm lane.
The paths through the next few fields were untrodden even this year when the world and his dog have been out exercising. My legs became more and more splattered with mud and I don’t know what else. On reaching Delph Lane I could have easily walked up it to my car but something made me obstinately carry on with my planned route. The footpath was sensibly diverted around the next farm, High Moor, but I was apprehensive as I approached Broadgate, a typical sprawling shambles of a farm – more industrial than agricultural. My GPS proved essential to navigate through. The continuing lane was a mess from timber extraction.
I knew the next field to be muddier than most from a visit a few years back with my old mate Mel, sadly deceased this year. We had set off on a simple walk in trainers on the estate roads around Bleasdale when I suddenly spotted a footpath leaving the dry lanes across this very field. I cannot repeat his comments as we slowly sank into the almost knee-high mud but kept going nonetheless and laughed about later in the pub. That’s what friends are for. Today I was heading in the opposite direction towards the big house, Bleasdale Tower which looks austere at the best of times – I often imagine a face at that upper window, Rochester and Jane Eyre below. Today I just get the face of a friendly sheep in the paddock below.
I’ve touched on the interesting history of the Bleasdale Estate in previous posts.
Today as the afternoon wore on I had an easy walk back up the estate road to my car at the high spot. It was still grey all around but I’d perversely enjoyed the afternoon though I doubt few others would have.
I’ve just come back from the supermarket where outside a class of junior children were singing carols. I was emotional today, and they brought tears to my eyes which is always difficult when wearing a mask.
Just spotted it, this is Friday the 13th, survived again.
As you may know I’m trying to get something new from each of my lockdown walks. When I say ‘new’ I’m encompassing new perspectives, new experiences and hopefully new encounters with nature or whatever.
I haven’t seen Chris, one of my sons, for about three months so that is something new for today. He is a baker and social distancing is not the best but his firm have had no cases, yet. There is talk amongst some of his workmates with friends who have tested positive but nobody has volunteered to self Isolate. I imagine that is quite a problem generally with people not wanting to lose their wages. As he works night shifts there are not many afternoons when he is up, but today we arrange to meet in Bleasdale, a short distance drive for us both, well within the ‘rules’.
Social distancing is the order of the day. Since the last time I saw him he has grown a beard, fortunately I knew of that from telephone conversations otherwise it would have been a shock. Strangely half the hair growth is white, so he has gone grey without knowing it. We do the usual walk except the muddy bits. He thinks it is 20 years since he was last up here.
Here are a few photos from our walk.
The postman cometh.
The school master’s house now a desirable country residence.
One of those abhorrent vermin traps but open to any creature. Should be made illegal.
Is this Rhododendron flowering late or early?
Ever the gentleman.
Beacon Fell and a hazy Preston.
Pointing to Parlick
That wonderful beech hedge.
The River Brock on its way.
The afternoon is pleasantly sunny, and we enjoy the catch up. Not sure when we will do it again.
My other son and family are in Manchester and have decided they will keep well clear of me for the time being which I appreciate.
I’ve spent too much time today researching some new boots on the internet. I still haven’t made a choice but I need to soon as my present pair are deteriorating rapidly after, I admit, 2 years of heavy use. It was raining when I logged in and now when I look out the sun is shining. I had a 7 mile walk in mind alongside the River Brock and over Beacon Fell, did I have time to complete it. Let’s see. I park at a strategic place giving me road walking at the end in case I run out of daylight. 3 pm start.
I’m soon going down an old track to meet up with the River Brock at a footbridge where I cross to the northern side. Up to Brock Bottoms parking this is a popular walk and I meet a few families splashing about in the river. At the bridge there are plenty of cars parked.
Once past the parking/picnic site I meet nobody for the next hour or so. Slippy boardwalks seem dangerous, the paths are merely boggy. Autumn colour is appearing everywhere. I complete my stretch along the Brock at Jack Anderton Bridge, no I don’t know who he was.
Then I’m on that wonderful lane, lined with beech hedges, on the edge of Bleasdale. Parlick peeps over the hedge like an extinct volcano.
Now some brisk road walking with the Bleasdale Fells in the background. The sun is already low in the trees as I climb up onto Beacon Fell. There is always somebody at the trig point though the car park on the other side is virtually empty. A new path, to me, takes me steeply off Beacon Fell down alongside a little clough to emerge next to the beautifully situated Salisbury House. All I have left is a mile or so of quiet roads to my car. 6pm finish.
The clocks change this weekend so don’t forget your head torch.
I parked up rather late in the day, to be honest I had missed the sunshine but roused myself for some much-needed exercise. It was 4pm and there was rain in the air. I choose one of my local ‘wet weather walks’ knowing all the fields were supersaturated. Once more this week I have a hard surface to walk on. I was up here a few days ago with Mike doing the ‘other half’ of the ‘Bleasdale Circuit’.
I walk up the estate road from the delightful South Lodge. Ahead of me are the bleak Bleasdale Fells with Bleasdale Tower, the big house, sheltered below. I pass cottages originally associated with the C19th reformatory school established here for juvenile miscreants. There is still an old post box in the wall.
The lane skirts the big house and heads off across the fell side. There is an upper lodge on the lane.
Now there are more open views across the fields to the surrounding fells, a rainstorm is approaching Beacon Fell.
I come out onto the high road heading over to Oakenclough and Dolphinholme. The Fylde coastline at Blackpool is prominent in the incandescent light, Blackpool Tower is always something to focus on if you can spot it.
A long downhill stretch of road and I’m almost back at the car. There is a prospering trekking centre and Tootle Hall, an old farm which used to be a café in my heyday.
JD and I set off from St Eadmer’s Church for a round of the Bleasdale fells. It was warm and sunny from the start. As is usual in these Covid 19 days we caught up with each other’s news and discussed the state of the nation as we walked up the estate road. Before long we were faced with the long rake across the side of the fell up to Fiendsdale Head, it seemed steeper than before. Drinks were taken half way up as we suffered from the heat.
The way onwards to the summit is always boggy but with a judicious choice of cloughs and some changing of sides over the fence we made it with dry feet. There are not enough flags.
We were kept entertained by a helicopter making repeated trips with some payloads to the distant White Moss. An even stranger sight greeted us we reached the 520m true summit of Fairsnape, a substantial digger perched on the peat hags.The operator was sat in the cab so we could ascertain his mission. United Utilities [North West Water to you and me] are trying to stop peat erosion and water run off. He evens out the cloughs, the helicopter drops stones to form a barrier before heather is replanted. Easy.
Stones emptied into the cloughs.
Well on a good day like today its good work but in a storm it would be a different matter. He spoke of trying to avoid the monster getting sucked into the peat. We left him to it but wondered at the effectiveness of man in such a huge scale of wild moorland.
The trig point, 510m, and cairn of Paddy’s Pole [no idea of its origin] on the western edge of Fairsnape are easy to locate in today’s clear weather but this area can be a nightmare in bad conditions and poor visibility. We both had tales of aimless wanderings.
In these conditions an easy stroll across to the trig and Paddy’s pole..
The shelter gave us a place to sit and eat lunch. I was on the lookout for flat soft areas for a future bivi night.
Along the ridge towards Parlick we were keen not to miss Nick’s Chair a lofty rocky prominence.
Nick’s chair – easy to spot in this direction.
Here is a 2014 picture of my grandson on the chair featured in one of my ‘lockdown’ quizzes.
We didn’t bother with climbing to Parlick’s summit but took a traversing path around it before descending the Zigzags down the rough fell side to Blindhurst.
Blindhurst with Beacon Fell in the distance.
It was then an easy walk across fields back to the church. A well devised route from JD. I believe I had a touch of sunburn.
The last time we did a similar route was almost 2 years ago to the day in Hurricane Ali, what a contrast.
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.
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.
Bleasdale Circle with Fairsnape and Parlick looming above.
Another of my winter favourites. This circuit is mainly on lanes and good tracks but takes one right into the hills. I’ve written about it many times but today I have come across some interesting new facts.
For a start, Bleasdale School dating from 1850 where I park is now closed. It soldiered on since the Millenium with about a dozen pupils from the surrounding farms but when the number dropped to two or three its fate was inevitable.
Up the lane, the Parish Hall is heated using a wood pellet boiler with a wind turbine to generate electricity, forward-thinking for a small community. Further on is the uniquely named St. Eadmer Church.
The lane then heads into the hills past a few farms. A footpath diverts to visit Bronze Age Bleasdale Circle. Originally two circles of wooden posts with ditches and a central burial chamber. The wooden posts of the inner circle have been replaced by concrete posts but still are evocative of the site. There is the usual speculation as to the uses of these circles and their positioning. Burial urns from the site have been on view at the Harris Museum in Preston. The whole site has been planted with a circle of trees which are visible from many parts of Bleasdale. The outer circle, obstructed by the trees, was possibly from an earlier Neolithic era. Ritual sites are often reused over the ages. I visited it today and got my feet very wet in the approach fields.
Further into Bleasdale, there is a section of boggy ground before the next farm tracks which come in from the west, like crossing a watershed. All around are good views of the surrounding hills. As well as the Curlew and Lapwings a small flock of Pied Wagtails entertain me flitting along the wall tops. I’m now approaching the properties of the Bleasdale Estate. The estate is now run as partly agricultural and partly a shooting concern but I’ve just unearthed some of its history.
In the C19th a Mr Garnett lived in nearby Bleasdale Tower, he was an agricultural reformer and philanthropist and in 1857 founded The North Lancashire Reformatory School constructed on the estate. It catered for over a hundred boys who worked on the land and in trades such as tailoring and shoemaking as well as receiving an education
“In November 1857, a few weeks after its opening, three boys escaped from the institution due to the fence wall having not been completed. They were all apprehended in Preston the same evening and returned to the Reformatory.”
“Of the 51 discharges for 1865 thirty-three were doing well, twelve convicted, one dead and five missing”
As I walked down the lane today I crossed over Clough Head Brook on a substantial stone bridge which apparently was constructed by the boys. Stonemasons’ tools are depicted on the parapet.
The lane goes through the original school buildings which are now used as cottages and workhouses for the estate. The school enlarged over the years and eventually closed in 1905. A map from 1893 shows the school
In a wall on the corner is a King Geoge V post box [1910 -36]
Taking the shorter route on tarmac brought me past Brooks Farm where an arched ‘packhorse’ bridge is visible over the River Brock. Despite its appearance, it was never built for horses with steep steps at either end. It is not on a known packhorse trail and didn’t appear on maps till 1893. It has been suggested that the bridge was built to provide access from Bleasdale Tower to Bleasdale Church, I wonder if those reform boys built it.
In the wood nearby are some new, not particularly attractive, chalet type holiday lets, a sign of the estate diversifying.
My way back to the school was enclosed by smart beech hedging for which the estate is renowned.
I took this photo of the Bleasdale hills on my way home, St. Eadmer’s church is right of centre.*****
This walk was completed two days ago and since then advice about walking and climbing during the coronavirus emergency has been sensibly updated. As I’m in the vulnerable group I’m taking heed. We are all responsible for limiting the seriousness of the situation in the next few months.
BMC Advice. 18/03/2020
People need access to the countryside for their health – both mental and physical.
Follow the most current NHS advice regarding health and distancing. Currently Public Health England’s advice is: “you can go for a walk outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others.”
Consider your means of travel and distance – close to home is best and, despite the environmental impact, it’s better to be in personal cars than public transport at the moment.
Stick to familiar areas and low-risk activities.
Reduce your risk. Be very aware that medical and rescue services and facilities are going to be extremely stretched and overwhelmed. It would be socially irresponsible to be taking risks at this time that could place an additional burden on medical and emergency services.
Do not assume that Mountain Rescue will be available. There is a real possibility of reduced or even no cover for rescue in some areas as this develops.
Calder Vale is a hidden village tucked away from the world to the east of the Bowland Fells. Quakers Jonathan & Richard Jackson founded Calder Vale realising the River Calder would provide water power and in 1835 the Lappet mill was built to spin cotton. At the same time, they provided for their workers and their families by building houses on site. A further mill was built downstream for weaving the fabrics. The waste from these mills was transported to Oakenclough further up the Calder where the same family had established a paper mill. Most of the mills have long since closed but the Lappet mill has survived by specialising in the production of Arab head shawls! Those red or blue and white shemaghs for protection from the sun as well as windblown sand. Time for a revisit.
I waited this morning for the mist to disperse, and I waited. By 12am I decided to set off hoping the sun would appear as promised. I am not far away as the crow flies but the lanes in this area are a maze. Eventually, I found a parking place by Sandholme Bridge on the Calder. I wanted to walk into Calder Vale from above to fully appreciate its position. The quiet lane rose up above the river heading towards the Bowland Hills [which were in the cloud]. I was directed off the lane towards Cobble Hay Farm, a working farm that also hosts a popular café and gardens. Guess what, it has been closed all winter but is reopening tomorrow, so no coffee today. The original farm is dated 1681.
Once through the farm, one is onto open pastureland which today was a quagmire, and I was concerned about becoming stuck as my boots sank further and further into the mud. Up above a couple of buzzards were wheeling around and crying. I approached the next farm cautiously, thinking there may be dogs at loose, but I was greeted by this friendly face.
I’m now on the edge of the Bleasdale Fells [Bowland], there used to be a pub up here, The Moorcock, now closed and a private house. I was aiming for the little St John’s Church,1863, the parish church high above the village. It was closed today but apparently has some fine stained-glass. Next to it is the little village school serving a wider area than just Calder Vale, I wonder how many children walk up from the valley each morning.
Reversing their route through the woods I met up with the River Calder down below. A pleasant stretch alongside the lively water brought me to a weir where water was taken off to a large millpond which previously supplied the Lappet mill. The mill is no longer water-powered but it is interesting to follow the original leats.
Now deep in the valley, the first row of Calder Vale workers’ cottages are passed and how delightful they look today but car parking is obviously a modern-day problem. [heading photo]
The Lappet Mill is massive and the sounds of weaving can be heard outside. Let’s hope the demand for headscarves continues.
Just past the mill is an old farmhouse, a sheepdog rushes out to greet me. The farmer appeared, and we had a long chat on all things rural, meanwhile, the dog rounded up all the hens in the yard – ‘showing off’ said the farmer.
More cottages were reached over a footbridge. Alongside the river, there was very little sign of the lower mill, only a few stones and water channels here and there.
The track climbed out of the valley and crossed fields to a country lane. A man was practising with a parapente on an easy slope, he never got off the ground.
Once on the road, I walked quickly back to the car with the weak sun in the west and the rumble from the motorway becoming intrusive. I stopped to buy half a dozen farm eggs towards my tea.