Trying to spread my diminishing physical ‘talents’ around – walking, cycling and climbing. today after a miserable week of wheeziness and coughing I made the effort to drive up to Craig Y Longridge not that it is very far. Would it be a step too far? Possibly.
I’ve been coming here for years, far too many. I’m probably four times the age of the young dudes who come from afar to test their strength and skills on one of England’s premier bouldering venues. This strenuous training crag (more correctly a quarry) is fortunately on my doorstep. Every spring I am determined to get strong again.
I’m surprised by the number of people here today, but it is dry with a glimpse of the sun and temperatures nudging above 6 degrees. We all climb in hope. The colourful crowd is mainly one group from Lancaster. All a friendly lot. Whilst they hurl themselves at desperate overhanging problems I slouch off to the easier far end where I can play around on some familiar traverses. I’m only feeling my way back to fitness but as I climb that old buzz kicks in, and I start to enjoy myself and pull off some smart moves. But not for long – the strength soon runs out. Still, there is time to chat with the others, passing the time of day and reflecting on past days and crags. They tolerate my reminisces, I only hope time will be memorable for them too.
This started out as a short post about bouldering up at Craig Y Longridge, which would have been of little interest to many of you. The autumn sunshine made for a lovely afternoon with several climbers up from Manchester to try the outdoors. Many ‘youngsters’ spend most of their time on indoor climbing walls moving from one blue or red hold to the next. Excellent exercise but not at all like the real thing where you learn to position your body to make maximum efficient use of the available holds, feet and hands. They were enjoying themselves but using up an awful lot of unnecessary energy and skin with their climbing gym moves. You have seen them perform in the Olympics. My son sent me a video the other day of my youngest grandchild climbing at The Depot in Manchester. All very impressive on a ‘route’ I wouldn’t get off the ground on. All heel hooks and dynamic jumps to rounded blobs. I congratulated him on his skill, he is my grandson after all, but also mentioned I had never had to resort to jumping in 50 years of traditional crag climbing.
I go along to the mere vertical part of the crag where I have a trio of traverses. At one time I could link them all together, but now I struggle to climb each one. I don’t mind I’m just happy to be moving on the rock. Back to basics.
On the way home I call into my local supermarket and manage to pick up reduced bags of vegetables. Winter greens, mixed vegetables and stir-fry selections. All for a fraction of their original price, the use by dates approaching fast. Back home with the addition of an onion or two and some potatoes I soon have a heart-warming soup mixture. In fact eight generous portions of soup for less than £2 go into the freezer. Back to basics, that’s how to deal with the cost of living crisis.
Our new government is struggling to come to terms with that cost of living crisis. In fact, they have made it worse by the tax cutting measures that have sent a shock wave through the financial markets. Let’s not hurt the rich and make the poor pay for it in the years to come. Oh! But is that a U turn I see? Disarray within weeks of their new premier. Having Rees-Mogg involved in climate change measures is obviously a joke. Fracking in our back gardens is looming its head here in Lancashire. Time to get back to basics., but I for one have no confidence in the unelectable Tories.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg,
There are few photographs and no maps in this post, I’m sworn to secrecy.
Any climber will admit to you that if he comes across a cliff face that apparently hasn’t been climbed on he keeps it very much to himself until he has climbed all the routes or at least the ones he is capable. Climbing lore is full of Crag X’s. I’ve known climbers spend hours on Google Earth trying to spot unknown crags. The protagonists will go to all lengths to ensure their apparent rivals don’t come across the location. Leaking the wrong grid reference or the wrong county if they think they could be robbed of the new route’s kudos. Talk of going to Wales this weekend when in fact they are sneaking into the Lake District. There are tales of car chases to try and follow the new routers to their new crag. Many a secret has however unfortunately slipped out over a few, too many, beers on a Friday night.
New routes on an already well climbed out crag are more difficult to hide before completion and there are many tales of rivals stepping in and ‘pinching’ the route from under the noses of the originator. A nonclimber will say isn’t the rock available to all, there are no property rights. But if a team have spent hours if not days cleaning, and in these times on certain crags placing expensive protection bolts, then they feel they have an unwritten right to first go. There was always a certain climber’s ethic and code protecting this ethos.
The first ascentionist’s list in climbing guide books is always of interest, if not heated debate in some circumstances. There is a wealth of tradition and history contained within. The top climbers satisfied with a select list of quality climbs to their name. Others have produced a plethora of named routes of dubious quality that rarely see anyone else climbing.
To be honest most of, if not all, the decent climbable rock on our small island has been identified. You just need to take a look at UK Climbing’s map to see that even the smallest and most esoteric pieces of rock have been climbed on. However, in recent years the popularity of bouldering, smaller rocks without ropes, has broadened the perception of what is possible away from the traditional areas.
I’ve modestly developed a few rather grotty quarries on Longridge Fell, non are popular but occasionally someone comments on a good route which is satisfying.
I remember a walk, 45 ago, up the Croasdale Valley one winter’s day looking at some craglets, Bull Stones, marked on the OS map. (Aren’t we lucky to have this fantastic mapping source, the envy of the world.) There was lots of rock but little of it high enough for roped climbing as was the norm then. I dismissed it. Step forward 20 years and the sport of bouldering has mushroomed. Every boulder, no matter how small, can be climbed by a variety of ways with just your rock boots and chalk bag, no rope required, Bouldering mats, a safety pad to soften your falls appeared later. That blurred vision of Bull Stones resurfaced, and I mentioned to my climbing partner Batesyman the possibilities up there.
The next weekend we were hiking up there, dodging the gamekeepers, and like kids in a sweetshop climbing everything we could. Bouldering mats were purchased and our boldness multiplied. Over several months we systematically climbed and charted over 300 problems on the extensive edges. M (see below) himself joined in on some new routing. Thankfully the 2004 CRoW act gave access to many previously forbidden upland areas, particularly in the Bowland Hills, a bastion of grouse shooting. ( by the way they will be at it this week – the glorious 12th has passed) I produced a PDF guide to the edge, and it has been incorporated into Robin Mueller’s exhaustive Lancashire Bouldering Guide. If you are interested there is a delightful video http://vimeo.com/183222521
So when I receive an email from M. “How do you fancy helping me develop a crag that I have found? Between 10 and 20 m high?”
I’m hooked and despite my unfitness I was only too keen to join in the fun. I obviously had reservations of what could be new? A drive south on long forgotten roads. M and his wife have bought an isolated property in a secluded valley to start a new life. A lovely C17th farm house with flagged floors and low ceilings.
A walk on what is one of the hottest days of the year brings us to the crags where thankfully there is a pleasant breeze. M shows me the first buttress – I’m blown away. Perfect rock, up to 20 metres high with cracks and breaks. I struggle to follow him up the first new route which he climbed on sight. There was a heart stopping traverse move at half height where you leave a crack and blindly grope for a rounded layaway flake.
His next offering, again previously unclimbed though cleaned this week, involved some very steep moves which I found impossible with my injured left knee, lots of undignified shuffling to get my right leg onto the nose and up to more interesting climbing on immaculate rock. A good lead from M, I couldn’t have done it.
Refreshed by sandwiches and fluid, and it was time for his ‘triple buttress’ route. He had done this before but wanted my opinion of the grade – to be honest I found each of its three sections hard and thought-provoking, probably at least 4c/5a, harder than the other routes had been. But I’m not fit, so maybe I’m overestimating them. M is climbing well, and I’m impressed with the quality of the routes.
We were both exhausted from the climbing and the heat and agreed we had had enough. Back at M’s cottage we went down to the river where there is a secluded swimming pool. The cool water was so refreshing. Wouldn’t you all love this on your door step this weather? The day was topped off with tea and scones.
The secret pool.
M will be busy prospecting new lines and I can’t wait to join him again.
When I started writing this blog nearly 10 years ago I called myself ‘bowlandclimber’. My first post incidentally was information on the climbing at Kemple End Quarry on Longridge Fell. I was out climbing most days, either in the mountains of Wales or the Lake District, the edges of the Peak District or Yorkshire, the Lancashire quarries or the bouldering in Bowland. What great friendships shared. As somebody said – “we had it all”
Time moves on, life evolves I’ve lost a great many friends in those years, that is the worst thing. My climbing unfortunately has taken a back seat for all sorts of reasons – OK I’m getting old and the joints aren’t what they used to be. But I’m not giving up that easily.
Today I find myself hanging from an abseil rope doing a spot of ‘cleaning’ in Kemple End. I love it up here. Those views over the Ribble Valley, the deer hiding in the quarry floor, the fresh green growth of bracken, the barn owl roosting across the other side, the thrill if anybody else is climbing here, the first chalked up handhold and the familiar movement across the rough rock, brushing off any loose dust.
Someone has reported, on a climbing forum, concerns about a hanging flake on one of the climbs – Birdy Brow for those familiar. I’ve soloed up and down this route, perhaps recklessly, for many years enjoying the positive layback moves on the flake’s edge. It has never moved.
I went back up there a few days ago and all seemed well but when you examined the flake carefully it was only balanced there by a bit of soil. There was no direct attachment to the quarry face. I felt a pang of conscience – what if someone was injured or worse, killed on this route. I was responsible for finding the route and publishing it to the climbing network. There it was in print in the Lancashire guide book, it even has a star.
Here’s a great photo of Phil Gillespie soloing it – (?copyright UK Climbing)
I’m back today intending to remove the flake which must weigh a ton. Hence, the abseil rope. I’ve brought a crow bar, but it only moves the flake a little, Maybe it is more secure than I thought, but once started I may have made the situation worse. Huffing and puffing I realise I don’t have the strength to prise it from its resting place. My car is only 50 m away and in the boot is the jack – never used in earnest before. Is this a job for the AA?
I return and carefully place the carjack between rock and flake, a few turns of the screw and I can see results. Slowly the gap is widening, and I have time to ensure my safety and recover the jack intact as all that rock crashes to the ground. With a touch of sadness I realise the flake is no more. But there is one hell of a mess of broken rock on the quarry floor and some revision due to the climbs here.
All looks well on Birdy Brow.
Well maybe not.
That’s a lot of rock to fall down on you.
Jack in place. Does this photo make you feel dizzy?
A new scar to climb.
As I said my first post ever was about climbing at Kemple End, so it was fitting that this, my 1000th post, was on the same locality. Unfortunately I managed to delete a past post into the ether yesterday, so technically this post no 999, but I’m not having that.
This is my 1000th post – maybe it is time to stop?
To mark the Easter visit of my family from Manchester a Chinese noodle lunch was enjoyed; and then whilst the physiotherapist was diagnosing my knee problem, resulting from that cycling incident last month, they exercised the dogs up on Longridge Fell. Back at home after coffee my three grandchildren were keen to do a little outside bouldering at the local unique Craig y Longridge. Where they live in Stretford is a bouldering gym, The Depot, which they regularly visit so a chance to get outside was eagerly anticipated. Despite the recent damp weather I was able to find dry rock to climb on and in my senior and injured role was happy to point them at the problems. Great to see them enjoying themselves.
By the time we got back the washing up had all been done. Perfect.
The weather this weekend has been dry and sunny, just the ticket to bring Craig Y Longridge into condition. I made a tentative step with my bouldering mat for the first time this year. A few others were doing the same, a good family venue, so there was the chance for some chat between the attempts to test our fitness. Mine is sadly lacking, not having climbed for 6 months, the others had been enjoying the delights of indoor walls over winter which makes a big difference. I played about for an hour or so, more putting some chalk on the holds rather than climbing them.
I made my retreat across the road for some bird watching on the small reservoir. Tufted Ducks and a Great Crested Grebe.
I could hear rustling in the ferns behind me all evening and when I looked some movement in the vegetation and the occasional squeak, but no clue as to what was in there. I was bouldering on the north facing wall of Sweden Quarry, which gave shade from the hot sun, even so I was sweating profusely, we are just not accustomed to temperatures in the high 20s. The quarry hosts quite a bit of bird life – blackbird, wren, robin, chiffchaff, blackcap, mallard and no doubt many more. Barn owls nested earlier in the season. It is a great place to sit and take in the ambience such as it is with old tyres, fencing and rotting trees cut down in the plantation a few years ago. The pool at the bottom has shrunk greatly in this recent drought.
I was about to leave when I spotted something yellow out of the corner of my eye, in fact, there were two yellow blobs in the grass. The squeaking became louder as Mother Duck led her brood out of hiding down to the drying up pool at the base of the quarry. The other four chicks were brown and well camouflaged, it was the two yellow ones that gave the game away. I grabbed my phone for a quick shot, but then realised they were out to play for a while, so I was able to retrieve my camera and sit down to enjoy their display. Mother floated quietly whilst the chicks darted about exploring, exercising their legs and no doubt eating the odd green morsel. After some time, Mother decided they had had enough and marched them back into the undergrowth to hide away for the night. I hope the ducklings survive but fear for the yellow ones who are all too obvious to any predator. I will report back on further sightings over the next week. (Still six there two days later) So how unusual are yellow ducklings? Mallards, Muscovy and domestic ducks have occasional yellow ducklings, many of these develop into white ducks – so we will see.
The joys of living in the Ribble Valley on an evening like this.
I first looked into this large hole in the ground, hidden in the forest on Longridge Fell, many years ago and climbed a few routes as well as some boulder problems. I called it Sweden because of the fir trees. Time passes and one’s attention goes elsewhere, but I never forgot. With travel restricted, the popular bouldering venue Craig Y Longridge became even more crowded at times, so I stayed away. I remembered this place though, the trees have been felled and the plantation has become popular with dog walkers. I mentioned it in a post a while back. Well since then on sunny evenings I’ve been visiting this place, cuckoos are calling across the way, mallard ducks are paddling in the pool below and barn owls have successfully nested in the higher parts of the quarry. The Ribble Valley is a distant view away. Magic and memories.
Looking back through my photos from 25years ago, I have found pictures of the walls up here with dotted lines drawn to show the problems I had succeeded on. The clean wall I’m now revisiting used to have JOKER in large red letters painted right across it, that has faded completely. And now the joke is on me, as I’m finding all the problems far harder than I remember. Tempus fugit!
I used to climb here with Tony, Pete and dear old Dor. Everything was fun and everything was possible. They are all dead now, and I miss them so.
The Old Man of Hoy is a famous sea stack off the coast of Hoy in the Orkney Isles. As a climb it was first ascended by Chris Bonington, Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey in 1966. Apparently it could collapse at any time.
We weren’t up there today, that would be stretching the travel limits. No we were still in deepest Lancashire returning to Troy Quarry after many years for some climbing. Apart from the rhyming name the only other resemblance to Hoy is a stack, without any sea, in the middle of the quarry.
The parking area has been severely limited because of the influx of walkers disturbing the locals in these strange times. Of course, we travelled in four separate cars, so you can see how quickly every space becomes blocked. None of us could remember the approach into the quarry, there used to be some large concrete buildings by the track, all now looked quite sylvan. There are some good walks that traverse the hillsides in this upper part of Rossendale. But today we were here for the climbing.
The quarry is large, spreading 30 – 40ft walls of gritstone around a pond. Canada Geese entertained us all afternoon with their calls and territorial chasing across the water. We made a beeline to the South Walls where there were easier climbs. Another pair of climbers were already in situ but soon moved on. They were top roping either for safety or inexperience. We had many years of experience between the four off us, too many to count but were a little rusty. I, for one, don’t want to see the inside of a casualty department, so we opted for top roping too, something I wouldn’t have contemplated in the past – where is the adventure in that. Times change.
After a bit of faffing with slings we had a top rope set up above the Siamese Twins. These are cracks in a steep slab. We climbed the right-hand variation with help of the left crack and the left route with the help of the right crack. Who’s watching?
Rod high on Left Siamese Twin.
Dave in a similar position.
The rock was clean with positive holds, a fine gritstone apparently used in the past for pavement flags in the northwest cities.
A large flake in the centre of the Siamese wall had new cracks running down it, a hollow sound and movement when pulled in certain directions. Water and frost affect the rock formations in these quarries and every so often lumps, small and large, detach themselves. You just hope you are not clutching one when that happens. This particular flake is already doomed. We squeezed in a slightly harder climb to the left but again transgressed into those cracks.
Fred has the largest lunch box.
I haven’t seen my climbing partners for many months, so we had a good catch up chat over lunch. The sun was pleasantly warm reminding us of many hours playing on the rock walls in these Lancashire holes in the ground. God’s own rock is over the border in Yorkshire, but we are fiercely defensive of our sometimes grotty venues.
We moved the rope along to above a great looking flake line, Stacked Deck, which we all enjoyed lay backing up.
Dave starting the lay back of Stacked Deck.
Alongside was the classic route, Rapunzel. Halfway up is a barred window from which Rapunzel would have let down her hair. The fable around this story is more complicated than I remember. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapunzel
Rod approaching Rapunzel’s window.
Suffice to say she didn’t let down her hair for me today, and I was lowered to the ground to lick my wounds. Ah, well it is the first time I’ve been on a rope this year. Things can only get better – or is that a fairy tale?
We, us old farts, used to climb with a fit young lad who shall remain nameless. Regular evening visits to Lancashire quarries in the summer months provided good sport. He was pushing his grade, as a young man should, but often was lowered to the ground defeated by a high crux move which one of us old timers could easily demonstrate to him. Chastened he would apply himself to the next problem with often the same result.
It was only in the pub afterwards that an analysis of the evenings climbing took place. Typically, we focused on his failings and inevitably came to the conclusion he was carrying too much weight. This lead to, and I apologise as from now, describing him as a ‘fat bastard’. We did have his interests at heart as this insulting banter resulted in him disappearing, dieting and training to re-emerge the next week to climb as good if not better than us.
Someday I will write about climbing trips with this youth in question to places far from Lancashire and the resulting adventures. I will of course need his permission first.
Anyhow, today the boot, or climbing shoe, is on the other foot. I used to climb in a quarry high on Longridge Fell hidden in the conifer plantations – I called it Sweden for no other reason than the trees. Only I and a few others knew about it, and slowly it became overgrown as these places do. But it was there at the back of my mind and when social distancing became the norm, and I was wary of climbing in crowded Craig Y Longridge …
A crowded Craig y Longridge.
… I revisited Sweden.
Basically it is a large hole in the ground. The walls tend to be damp and uninviting but on an upper level there is a clean wall getting the sun all day. A few days getting rid of the vegetation that had encroached in the intervening years, and I was ready to try the problems that I had recorded 25 years ago. Armed with my tatty guide from then I began to repeat the problems. They were much harder than I remember and also apparently much higher despite the use of a modern day crash mat.
The River Wenning comes out from the Craven limestone dales and heads towards the Lune. Today we were constantly reminded of the Dales by the presence of the Three Peaks on the horizon. The river takes its name from the old English ‘wan’ meaning the ‘dark one’ and within yards of the carpark we were crossing its rushing brown waters. These waters in the past powered mills in the Bentham area, originally for flax but later turning to cotton and silk. Here at Low Bentham modern accomodation has been developed in some of the old buildings.
It was a pleasure to walk upsteam chatting to Sir Hugh especially after the last few stressful weeks. Before we knew it we were in a massive caravan park, part residential and part tourism. We were impressed as to the quality of the park but what would you do here all the time.
After exracating ourselves from the park we climbed little used paths linking farms up the side of the fell. Some tidier than others.
Once on the open fell the object of our walk appeared on the horizon across boggy terrain. The Great Stone of Fourstones stands on the Lancs/Yorks boundary. Known locally as ‘the big stone’, it is a glacial erratic gritstone. Originally as the name suggests there were three others which were broken up by farmers, but I can find no reference as to any dates or why one stone survived. A feature of the stone is a set of worn steps carved into the side, easier to climb than descend. I remember playing here with my children and finding more adventurous ways to the top. Today we were entertained with an ascent by a passing motorcyclist in his unsuitable footwear. The stone is covered in carved graffiti.
Leaving here we weaved a way across the fell to descend past interesting farms with the dramatic view of the Yorkshire hills ahead of us.
Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent.
A late lunch was taken sat on a couple of stones only to pass a perfect wooden seat within a hundred yards. This is a frequent occurence on walks which remains an unexplained quandary.
From time to time we were strafed by Chinook type helicopters which had the conversation ranging to ‘Mash’ – Hawkeye, Hot lips and Radar. We are of a certain generation.
Back on the River Wenning we bypassed Higher Bentham village using a lane by riverside mill cottages. Once through another large caravan park we took paths on the north side of the river to Lower Bentham.
Sleepy Lower Bentham.
Yet another interesting walk in unfamiliar territory. Are there more in this area?
“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.
The government’s [they now try to label it as the NHS’s for scientific kudos] Tell, Track and Trace scheme came into being yesterday although they forgot to tell most of the volunteer trackers. The pilot scheme of smartphone tracking, used by most other countries for accuracy, failed in the Isle of White and is nowhere near ready despite us being promised it would be underway mid-May.
So we are left with a ragtail plan for the good British public to have a test if they feel unwell with Covid19 symptoms and then tell a phone operator the names and addresses of all their contacts, as if they would know.. Those contacts will then have to voluntarily self-isolate almost without realising why. It won’t work.
At the same time, despite there being a high incidence of viral infection still, we are being allowed to meet up with more family and friends. Social distancing of course in the garden and using the loo when you’ve had too much to drink. This for some reason starts on Monday, why tell us before a hot sunny weekend when half the population will take it into their own hands and interpretations tonight.
How long before the second peak? We are already leading most of the world in deaths per capita.
With that background, I drove cautiously up the fell this evening when it had cooled down. I expected I would have the little quarry up on Kemple End to myself for some safe low-level bouldering. And so I brought my brain into action with climbing moves I’ve not executed for months. The very act of climbing concentrates the mind to the exclusion of most other incidental thoughts. The trees on the quarry floor have grown and leafed up. There was bird song everywhere, though I couldn’t identify any. I was isolated from the rest of the world and its troubles for a short spell.
After my short-lived exertions, I climbed back up and viewed the Ribble Valley with Clitheroe and Pendle Hill prominent. My photo of this tranquil scene heads the post.
I then drove back to reality.
As I write this the sounds and smells of barbeques drift through my window.
A lot of people are ‘climbing the walls’ with all these Covid19 isolation rules. I feel particular sympathy for those families living in cramped accommodation with maybe no open space to relax in. Having a garden is a great advantage, I’m blessed with mine.
Following my successful backpackingtrip at Easter, I thought it was time for a bit of climbing particularly as the weather has been so good the rock will be in excellent condition. I’m lucky in having Craig Y Longridge just up the road and normally go bouldering there most days when I’m fit. It is a unique venue with over 300ft of overhanging rock in the main up to about 15 – 20 ft high. There are over a hundred problems and many more variations to play on until your strength gives out. As everywhere else, due to the coronavirus, climbing is banned for the foreseeable future. Social distancing is difficult and any accident there would place even more burden on our emergency services.
Craig Y Longridge on a rather poor day but you get the idea of how steep it is.
Better weather – struggling climber. Oct 2018.
Not to be deterred I’ve some walls at home. The walls of my stone-built house offer edges which replicate the holds found on natural gritstone. Most of the walls now have plants and shrubs close or growing up them. However, the sidewall adjacent to my drive is free to explore after a little trimming of the honeysuckle on the corner.
So out comes the bouldering mat and I catch the morning sun. There are several variations up this bit of wall and one can make it as easy or hard as necessary. To be honest I’ve done so much gardening these last weeks that my dodgy shoulder is playing up so I have to go careful. Still, it is good fun and gives me some exercise every morning. Note the right foot on the window ledge is cheating.
The bouldering mat below me should ensure that I don’t twist an ankle or worse and end up in casualty, I’m not actually getting far off the ground as you can see. I do get some funny looks from passers-by.
After a few weeks I should have worked out lots of ways up this bit of wall and may have to start on the other side of the house but that would require some extensive ‘gardening’ to remove the shrubs.
So yet more simple diversions to help pass the days and keep fit at the same time bringing some normality into my life.
PS. The news today is that Joe Brown the famous working-class Manchester climber has died, aged 89. He was a climbing legend and many of you will have heard of him.
Joe was a true pioneer of rock climbing particularly active in the 1950s and 1960s when he pushed standards. His ascents were as varied in style as they were in location and ranged from the gritstone outcrops of the Peak District, the mountains of Britain to 8000m peaks in the Himalaya. He achieved TV fame with live outside broadcasts and earned the nickname ‘the human fly‘. The personality and talent he possessed only come along every few generations or so.
A vigorous day visiting old haunts with wide-ranging views.
The Duke of Devonshire, Bolton Abbey Estate, owns a large area of grouse moorland NE of Skipton. Confusingly Barden Moor to the west of the Wharfe and Barden Fell to the east. I’ve spent many days on these moors mainly on their edges climbing on Rylstone Crag, Crookrise, Eastby and Simon’s Seat. I felt it was time to revisit and make a walk of it across the moors. The Pieman doesn’t get out much so when he phoned suggesting a walk this week I gladly agreed and decided on this walk on his local hills. I cajoled JD into the party to show him a new area. Wednesday was the day and the forecast was for improving weather, but first we had to get rid of the tail end of Hurricane Dorian. Early morning and the rain was still heavy, I even had a phone call from Skipton querying opting out but I’m made of sterner stuff. Miraculously as we drove across the skies cleared and the sun came out, there was a sneaky breeze when we met in Rylstone.
Rylstone with its duck pond and church; the famed ladies who produced the original nude Calendar; the inspiration for Wordsworth’s 1808 poem ‘The White Doe of Rylstone’ and above the village Rylstone Cross. The latter was visible on the fell as we set off but it would be several hours before we stood alongside it. Originally a stone figure, the ‘Rylstone Man’, changed to a wooden cross to commemorate the ‘Peace of Paris’ in 1814. This had to be replaced several times until the wooden structure was replaced by a stone one in 1997. I remember a wooden cross held by a metal frame from early trips to Rylstone Crag.
A bridleway climbs away from the road and was followed easily into the heart of the moor. We chatted away and hardly noticed the increasing tailwind. The heather, unfortunately, was past its best. Views started to open up to familiar hills but putting a name to them often eluded us. Simon’s Seat across Wharfedale was prominent. Upper Barden Reservoir came into sight and veered off on a track to it. Sitting on an ancient stone gatepost out of the wind we had an early snack. Across the dam was an old waterboard house, we speculated on its value – isolation and views against accessibility.
The estate has signed most of the tracks and we changed course once again heading back to the moor’s northern edge. Another small reservoir was passed and we focused on an old chimney up the slope, this with some obvious old pits suggested past mining activity.
As we reached the edge I regret not diverting a short distance to look at Numberstones End, a small gritstone crag.
By now the wind was almost gale force and difficult to walk into, JD’s hat became the focus of attention as it somehow stuck to his head. We took our second break in a beaters’ shelter, the shooters more commodious lodge being firmly closed. We gazed across upper Wharfedale to Grassington, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside, Grimworth Reservoir with Nidderdale behind. The Three Peaks were hidden in cloud.
Refreshed we commenced battle with the wind as we bypassed Rolling Gate Crags and made a beeline towards an obvious Obelix, Cracoe War Memorial erected to honour the dead from the Great War with a plaque added for the 2nd WW. It was difficult to stand up on the summit because of the wind and we set off down the ridge towards Rylstone Crag and its Cross. Now below was the limestone country around Cracoe and the contrasting greens of the Winterburn Valley.
A visit to the base of the main face of Rylstone Crag was obligatory to gaze up at President’s Slab, Dental Slab and all those other climbs that have given me so much pleasure in the past. Last climbed six years ago.
The cross was another gale swept vantage point now looking towards Pendle.
A couple of boulders took our attention and we played around trying to stand up in the hole or reach for an edge, only long-limbed JD was successful with the latter. We reflected on ageing bodies and ‘the last of the Summer wine’ as we trotted down the hill back to the car, getting out of the wind and enjoying the warm sunshine.
It’s the summer holidays and I’m entertaining my youngest grandson for a couple of days, that’s all he has in his busy diary. I think of some local walks that will keep him interested and not be overdemanding. When I was his age, 11years, I could cover 20 miles no problem across rough moorland, alone and while smoking a few Woodbines. Maybe not, but I think the generations have softened the Human Spirit. While he stays with me there is an unplugged mentality regarding mobile devices, I try to explain that nothing will happen whilst he is off line. He is not convinced.
He arrives with his stepmother, both keen to explore the local countryside. I’ve devised a route up onto Beacon Fell that is interesting, short and easy. They seem happy with it as we arrive at the cafe in time for lunch. On the way we passed Barnsfold Reservoir where his great grandad used to fish and paint piscatorial images for the fellow fishermen. I’ve often wondered what happened to those skilled canvases. We marvelled at the size of two Buzzards wheeling overhead and we wondered about unusual tree fungi, a white bracket on a beech tree which I’ve been unable to identify.
We walked past a farm where the family have diversified into a hair salon what was previously a cowshed, good on them.
We passed more fishing lakes this time part of a recreational complex with holiday chalets. The original farm, Wood Fold, is grade II listed but has been submerged by ancillary housing. I never realised how much-hidden developments there were in the area. There was only a minor footpath diversion through this development.
Onwards, with grandson navigating, we followed my route of the other day through Crombleholme Fold and up the fields and into the woods to the honey spot of Beacon Fell.
We were probably the only people that had walked here, all be it only a couple of miles. A trio of elderly cyclists arrived and clattered into the cafe, they had come through the hills from Lancaster. We enjoyed soup and sandwiches. On our way back we had time for an attempt at climbing the new snake from tail to head and then we were out of the woods and back at the car. There were some new wood carvings of leafy Green men, a pre-Christian symbol. Incidentally, there is a Green Man Pub in nearby Inglewwhite.
I hope that a few navigational skills have been absorbed.
The afternoon was spent pruning bushes in my garden and the more exciting shredding of those branches which provided lots of laughs. A competitive game of boules anticipated our imminent family trip to France.
Refreshed by Thursday morning our next jaunt was to Brock Bottoms just below Beacon Fell. We were one of the first cars parked up in the popular picnic spot. It is years since I’ve been along this stretch of the River Brock. Memories of early forages with my own young children keep coming back. The river is low, we see no kingfishers or dippers which I was hoping for.
The highlight of this walk was going to be Brock Mill but alas time has taken its toll on the ruins of the mill. Where there had been substantial buildings there were only stones with little evidence of the mill race, waterwheel or the mill itself.
Brock Mill was once a thriving water-driven cotton spinning mill with up to twenty cottages in the valley for the workers. The mill was probably built in the 1790s. After a chequered history and two reincarnations as a roller making factory, and then a file making factory the mill finally closed in the 1930s. For some time the ground floor of the mill operated as a café, whilst the top floor was used for dancing on Saturday nights!
It took some imagination to see the ruins of the cottages.
Slightly disappointed we retraced our steps. Having given my grandson a lecture on watermills I drove back via Chipping where there is a water wheel attached to a house, a former corn mill and then converted to a restaurant with the wheel turning.
I cut the lawn whilst he caught up on ‘social media’, he hates it when I call it ‘antisocial media’
The weather remained sunny and dry and the plan for the afternoon was some bouldering up on Longridge Fell. Again keeping it low key I bypassed the tough Craig Y Longridge and settled for Kemple End. We dropped into the secluded heather bowl that is the old quarry. We were out of the sun and spent a couple of hours trying some of the easier problems. He realised that outdoor climbing is so different to the climbing walls he has been visiting. At the end of the session, I’m not convinced I’ve converted him into a proper climber. I was so busy spotting him that I didn’t take any photos – next time.
I don’t know who was most tired by the time his father came to take him home. See you in France.
Haven’t much to report since arriving back from France, how can I be jet-lagged after an hour and a half flight.
The fields opposite my house are being cut by a flotilla of agricultural vehicles, what a contrast to the old days of hay cutting that I was involved with as a youngster.
The weather here has been predictably hot and dry so I’ve been out bouldering on Longridge Fell at three of my favourite crags – Kemple End, Crowshaw and of course Craig Y Longridge. These three give me choices of sun or shade at varying times of the day so I can escape the sun if needed. Up at Kemple I ventured onto Hodder Buttress to solo the easy slabs and arriving at the top I was concerned about some loose flakes above the climbs, I had great fun trundling these onto the quarry floor thus making the routes safer. Over on the main wall I found that I was struggling on some of the traverses I normally cruised, I blamed this on lack of confidence since my enforced layoff. The view over the Ribble Valley this evening was splendid.
At Crowshaw I was completing a topo of the problems to the left of the main buttress. The quarry bowl here is a delight as the heather starts to bloom and the bilberries ripen. I am content on an evening just to sit here and listen to the bird song.
After these two backwaters Craigy is hardcore bouldering, 100m of overhanging rock, with a regular clientele. I have a section at the far end that is less severe and I can do circuits on relatively good jugs to keep fit.
Whilst up on the fell I popped into Cardwell Quarry where climbing is now banned because of unsociable behaviour by some ‘climbers’. I was surprised to see that not too much vegetation has returned in the lean years. I must go and have another word with the farmer to try and restore climbing here.
I was out in the Ribble Valley today and popped into Witches Quarry. A secluded limestone venue where you drive into the field and park conveniently under the crag! The rock was in good condition and I traversed a little and then soloed the amenable Cracklap, I’m sure this used to be VD. Strangely a gooseberry was growing from the start of the crack.
One seldom meets another person in upper Croasdale but today the Salter Fell track was busy with contractors making repairs to a steep section of the road above New Bridge. The road, also known as Hornby Road, dates from Roman times – Watling Street that ran from Manchester to Carlisle. It was along this road that the Lancashire Witches were taken from Clitheroe to Lancaster and in fact the last time I walked it was following a long distance walk called the Lancashire Witches Walk from Barrowford to Lancaster. Back to today I was with JD, both of us needing some exercise. A lorry was taking stone up to the repairs and the driver told us of the cost to Lancs. County Council who apparently are obliged to maintain the highway, for whose benefit I’m not sure. An awful lot of potholes around Longridge could have been repaired for less. The repairs were extensive and thorough but not lot of work seemed to getting done today. More stone was being extracted from the higher quarry which in the past had been used for the construction of Stocks Reservoir dam in the thirties.
Track repairs with one of the Lancashire Witches Walk tercet waymarkers.
It took longer than usual to reach the top gate where we left the track and headed uphill through the heather. Looking westwards are views of upper Whitendale and remote Wolfhole Crag, this is wild Bowland country. I found the tiny sheep trod that traversed to the first group of Bull Stone boulders where we had our refreshments. The day was rather dull but there was no wind and silence prevails up here. Looking down the wide valley of Croasdale a misty Pendle rose in the distance. I had resisted bringing up my rock shoes but now regretted it as the conditions were perfect. Big boots would not have stuck to the friction slabs.
Sketch of the same scene from the Bowland Beth book mentioned below.
We wandered on below more rocks, all bringing back memories to me, though JD had never been here. So it was a great pleasure to show him the massive stone trough carved on the hillside.
We found the little trod heading down valley and at the ford we decided to continue down rough marshland to look at the bothy and surrounding sheep-pens. About ten years ago I spent a couple of nights here with my teenage grandson whilst we explored the surrounding fells. In those days Hen Harriers were a common sight on these Bowland fells which were an important breeding ground for these beautiful birds. Things have gone downhill since then with more and more persecution of raptors on grouse moors where the shooting lobbies run roughshod. I have just been reading a little book about the short life of Bowland Beth, born near this spot. A thoughtful analysis of the plight of wild life on shooting estates.
Bowland Beth. The life of an English Hen Harrier. David Cobham. William Collins.
The bothy was unlocked but the flagged floor had been soiled by animals. It did not look an attractive proposition for an overnight stay now, but would soon clean up.
Onwards down the valley with a few stream crossings and then we climbed back up the road passing on the way the remains of the House of Croasdale, a 17th century farmhouse built on the site of an ancient hunting lodge. It would have witnessed the witches being taken across the fells.
Remains of House of Croasdale.
An interesting circuit as usual, although a little sunshine would have helped with the photos.
Anyone who has been following my posts this year or anyone searching ‘climbing’ will have noticed there has been no climbing. For various reasons I haven’t done a route for the first time in 40 – 50 years.* My climbing friends probably think I’ve died. This was brought home to me the other day when I happened to be in south Preston with one of my now ‘retired’ climbing partners.
“I think we are near Denham Quarry” I mentioned, “let’s go and have a look in”
Easier said than done as we drove arround in a maze of forgotten narrow lanes and kept crossing and recrossing the motorway. All of a sudden Holt Lane appeared and the name rang a bell, sure enough a short distance down the lane the familiar car park appeared and there was the quarry.
And there was that striking clean quarry face with the obvious groove line of ‘Mohammed’
In we went and peered up the classic groove which had a few chalk marks on it. When did we last climb this – one for the history books. Its real title is, wait for it, Mohammed the Mad Monk of Moorside Home for Mental Misfits. What’s that all about?
My friend is suffering a cruel form of dementia and has lost her speech but on seeing Mohammed excitedly started making climbing movements with her arms. A wonderful moment.
Moving right under the main face other routes were recalled, most of them scary on small holds and poor gear. We had survived.
And there was that deep pool, with unknown monsters in its depths, and the lovely soloable Splash Arete above it. Memories.
Back home I reflected that I probably would be struggling on those routes now but my enthusiasm was fired and on a sunny afternoon I’m up at Craig y Longridge traversing around on familiar territory at the easy far end. The crag is bathed in warm sunshine and I’m the only one here so I can laze around as much as possible. I can do the moves but my hands have become soft and soon my skin is protesting, enough.
* PS. The following morning I had a brief visit up to Kemple End and soloed a couple of short routes to break the year’s zero statistics.
Two experienced locals, JD and I, were taking ‘Batesieman’ and his dog Pixie for an exploratory walk over Longridge Fell. It was a perfect day, sunny and warm, with good visibility in all directions. We were lost [disorientated] in a field without a map and no obvious signage. I can’t really blame JD as he had just appeared on the scene from an earlier walk clutching a few wild strawberries, nowhere as good as the raspberries we found later, and agreed to accompany us further. For a while, I had wanted to visit Higher Deer House, marked prominently on the map. It turned out to be an unoccupied and undistinguished farmhouse in the middle of nowhere on the south side of Longridge Fell, The surrounding pastures were full of cows, calves and the occasional scary bull. This area had once been a medieval deer park on the Shireburn Estate long before the establishment of Stoneyhurst College.
We had started off walking up Longridge Fell on the track past Green Thorn Farm and onto the ridge at a clearing with great views over Bowland and also the Yorkshire Three Peaks. There has been a lot of forest clearing in the last few years because of the fungus affecting the spruce, but it is amazing to see the regeneration of small trees occurring on the open ground – are these commercially viable or disease-resistant? In front of us was the mighty Pendle Hill. The forest track brought us out at Kemple End where a compulsory visit to the quarry was taken, the site of Batesie and my exploration a decade ago, the routes don’t get a lot of traffic.
Onwards through the complex of houses at Kemple End. The Almshouses built here in the 17th century were moved and reconstructed in Hurst Green after the Second World War. I think of this as an amazing endeavour and would like to know more of their history.
We had followed a sunken track which I’ve always thought of as an old sledge way for transporting stone from the quarries, but I now wonder was part of the deer park boundary. Once orientated we passed the deer house and wandered down to the footbridge over the hidden Dean Brook. Then up to join the bridleway to Greengore an interesting medieval hunting lodge of the Shireburn estate, noticeable are the buttresses and mullioned windows.
The bridleway continues up past Crowshaw House to arrive at the fell road where we had started. JD went home with his strawberries for tea.
All that remained was to show Batesie Crowshaw Quarry, the latest bouldering venue on Longridge Fell. He was impressed. Pixie wasn’t.
Here’s a map to show you where we went. A convivial afternoon stroll.