There is a lot of bad weather about. Heavy rain most of the weekend and this morning, with storms forecast for the rest of the week. But there was a glimpse of sun this afternoon and I had something in mind. A post by Eunice (more of her later) and a comment from Sharon reminded me that it was snowdrop season, as if I didn’t know – having included a picture of a clump in one of my recent posts. Snowdrops are one of the first Spring flowers to bloom, helping us out of the winter gloom with shiny white petals. I wanted to view a larger expanse such as at Lytham Hall or Bank Hall, Bretherton, but I knew of a ‘secret’ place nearby.
Leagram Hall sits on the hillside above our lovely local village of Chipping, originally a lodge for the Medieval Deer Park. It was replaced by stone structures in the C18-19th when the Weld family inherited the estate from the Shireburns (of Stonyhurst). The present house was built in 1965 by the Weld-Blundell family. I’ve never visited the house but often walk past on a bridleway through the ancient deer park. I knew of a walled dell within their grounds which is renowned for snowdrops at this time of year. I was heading there today.
The elusive Leagram Hall.
In the parkland there were signs of tree damage from the storms of last year. An ancient oak was lying on the ground. How the mighty are fallen.
Farther up the lane and over the wall I had my first glimpse of the snowdrop spread. I was keen to get a closer look and even thought about climbing over the wall. Just then a woman appeared from the direction of the house. After a greeting and comments on the weather I asked her if she lived here. Yes she did. (She must be one of the Weld-Blundells!) I stated I had come to see and photograph the snowdrop display and wondered whether there was any chance of getting closer. She explained the gardens were private but then proceeded to show me a hidden entrance, said be careful and left me to explore.
Over the wall.
Inside the sanctuary.
I could have finished there but as the weather was improving I decided to continue my walk up the lane towards the Bowland Hills. Laund Farm, (laund was a grassy area in a deer park) home to a large herd of Blue Faced Leicester sheep. They pride themselves in the quality of the sheep milk cheese they produce. There was a new batch of lambs to boost the flock.
Pendle and Longridge Fell across the ‘laund’
Since I was last this way a new sign has been erected by the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, along with its dedication to some local footpath activist. I’m always pleased to see these classy additions to the countryside and at one time considered tracking them all down – a mammoth task, no doubt completed by someone.
I continued on past the scattering of buildings at Birchen Lee, all slowly becoming more gentrified. The access lane from there onwards has been recently improved giving easy walking to the road under Saddle Fell, the starting point for one of my favourite ways of climbing onto the Fairsnape-Totridge fells. Today I ignored the heights and strolled down to a junction of interestingly named lanes. Some research needed there.
I didn’t drop down to Wolfen Mill, originally Dewhurst’s spindle and fly works supplying the burgeoning local cotton mills but continued down the steep lane, Saunders Rake. Heading down to Chipping this passes the site of the Bond’s cotton spinning mill which later became Tweedy’s foundry, now occupied by a cheese factory. Farther on is the millpond for the still standing Kirk Mill, originally a cotton spinning business and later part of the chair making empire. There is a wealth of historical information on Chipping’s industrial past at https://kirkmill.org.uk/
Most of the chair factory across the road has been demolished and there were plans to develop the whole site into a hotel and venue complex. Not much seems to be happening on that front – we are all in for some difficult economic years.
Chipping was sleepy today. The Cobbled Corner Café, thankfully recently reopened, but closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I shall have to have a cycle ride another time for cups of tea and toast. I remembered the last time I came this way and popped into the graveyard to pay my respects to Lizzie Dean’s grave under of the old yew tree.
A good use of a February afternoon and I would recommend this modest circuit, all on tarmac, for keeping your feet dry at this time of year. There is far more to discover in Chipping than I have mentioned.
But beware storms Dudley and Eunice are on their way…
I had been told by Clare, of Slate Poems fame, of another decorated Xmas Tree on the fell. I was up here to find it. Parking was difficult on this fine Sunday afternoon, remember the chaotic parking situation in our earlier lockdowns. The good weather had brought lots of families out at the start of the Christmas Holidays.
Would you believe it? As I walked through the gate onto the fell, I bumped into Clare herself exercising her beautiful Collie.
I normally take the more northerly track overlooking Chipping Vale, I call it the ‘panoramic balcony track’, but there is also a track following markers going straight up the fell leading to boggy terrain, best avoided. Incidently this track goes through the site of some Bronze Age hut circles and burial grounds, I have tried unsuccessfully to locate these on the ground in the past.
This was the way to the decorated tree and the way I followed today. The stone cairn has had an addition of balanced stones, often seen on rocky beaches, I suspect they won’t survive a winter storm. Not far past the cairn is the tree. It was decorated with more environmentally friendly items; fir cones, wooden ornaments and nut strings for the birds. Satisfied with my ‘find’ I continued on through those forementioned bogs to regain the regular track, which does have its own boggy moments.
The other Xmas Tree with its tinsel and Angel topping was passed, and I reached the Trig point. There were good views, but nothing compared to yesterday’s cloud inversion. Circling through the forest, I was surprised at the number of trees that must have come down in our recent storms.
Once looking across the Ribble Valley, Pendle and Samlesbury there was a repeat of the cloud inversion * in a southerly direction.
* Cloud inversions take place when the temperature is warmer higher up – such as on a hill or mountain – than it is down at the bottom of a valley
The colder air at the lower level traps mist and fog creating the impression of mountain summits floating above the clouds.
I almost never set forth yesterday, the mist was so thick down in Longridge, but I wanted to continue with my renewed walking therapy. Friends had called in for coffee, so it was 2pm when I emerged out of the worst of the fog to park on Jeffrey Hill. The whole of Chipping Vale was a sea of cloud, with only the higher tops of the Bowland Fells visible across the way. My route up the fell was shrouded in mist, giving a spooky feel to the place in the low sunlight. I had the feeling that I was being followed, but no one else was about. As I climbed the air cleared and soon I was above in blue sky with the ridge of Longridge Fell visible ahead.
At the summit was a lady with her Collie dog, she had been there awhile, enthralled by the views in front of her. It was indeed spectacular. Thick cloud filled all the valleys, and there above were the tops of the fells in sparkling clarity. Beacon Fell, Fairsnape, the Croasdale Fells and Waddington Fell. And in the distance the Yorkshire Three Peaks. All islands in the clouds. Looking down onto the mist I thought there was the arc of a broken spectre, but unfortunately it never really materialised.
Another walker arrived with his Springer Spaniel. Whilst the three of us chatted about the spectacle, the two dogs ran themselves ragged in a game of tag. I stayed longer than usual before drifting away as more people started arriving. I continued taking photographs as I came down the fell. By the time I had reached the road, a full moon rose from the east as the sun set in the west.
As I pedalled out of Longridge today I had no intention of going up Beacon Fell, but that is where I ended up, don’t ask me why.
Next week is the climate crisis meeting in Glasgow, so cycling and recycling could well be on the agenda. My carbon footprint today should be low providing I don’t switch on the central heating or eat any meat. Life is becoming complicated, with all manner of ways of going green. If we all recycled and if we all cycled instead of using our cars … but that is not going to happen. Pollution in our cities decreased drastically during the first lockdown, when nobody was going anywhere. Apparently the roads are busier than ever now. So what does our chancellor come up with in his budget to reduce global warming? A planned increase in fuel duty is cancelled because of fuel shortages and high prices. He has also cut the flat-rate tax on domestic flights to zero to encourage more flights. Those two decisions don’t look good for our green credentials in the international climate debate we are hosting next week. A case of business over environment. We will never reach our modest carbon reduction targets.
Anyhow, that is not why I’m on Beacon Fell. I’d been feeling rather guilty as I had opted out of a planned ride around the Guild Wheel yesterday with Martin. https://phreerunner.blogspot.com/
I’d woken up to monsoon rains and a dismal forecast, so I contacted Martin in Manchester to wimp out of a ride in the pouring rain. He agreed and I think cancelled his plans with others. By 11 o’clock the rain had stopped and there was a brief interlude of a couple of hours before the torrents returned — we would have been OK. Elsewhere in the NW there were floods and they have my sympathies. I still felt guilty and disappointed that we’d missed our ride.
Today looked like a repeat, weather wise, and I idled the morning away, but by one o’clock it was still just dry and bright, so I roused myself for a short spin around the lanes. Somehow cycling is not as spontaneous as going for a walk or run, all the faff of different clothing and oiling the bike etc. It is too easy just not to bother, especially for some brief exercise. But I need the exercise as I feel I’m becoming unfit and flabby from my enforced inability to walk far, Plantar Fasciitis, which seems to bring on red wine drinking and snacking.
The road out to Chipping seemed to fly along, maybe I had the wind behind me. Soon I was on quieter, more relaxed lanes and just went where the bike pointed. Before I realised it was pointing up Beacon Fell. So I dropped into my grandad gear and puffed my way up. I have been a little concerned recently by getting out of breath on any marginal incline, so I looked upon this ascent as a bit of a test. I’m due at my doctor’s practise for a proper test in the near future. Needless to say, I made it and pulled into the visitor centre/café at the top. It is half-term, so there are a scattering of outdoor type families taking to the pathways. The café is open as a ‘takeaway’ so I buy a coffee and sit at one of the outside tables. The coffee is not as good as usual, I wonder if they have changed suppliers and gone for a cheaper brand, I don’t say anything.
It’s nearly all downhill back to home but I come across a few interesting diversions which may show up on my phone camera.
As well as the gloomy global climate predictions I’m also concerned about the steadily growing Covid infections, hospital admissions and deaths. A close friend had a close encounter with a Northern Casualty Department last week, third world is how he described it. I’m just glad I’m booked in for my booster vaccination tomorrow.
Get recycling and save the planet.
Get your booster and save yourself.
A gloomy Bowland.
A gloomy Beacon Fell.
A gloomy BC.
In the highlands.
Not many of these about.
No way. I’ve been caught before. Don’t want to end up in casualty!.
Blue skies, sunshine and calm conditions, perfect for a local cycle ride. Longridge Fell is my regular walking ground, but today I was going to circumnavigate it on lanes from Longridge. You will notice my post is titled ‘around’ and not ‘up’, I had no intention of cycling the high road over the fell, there are enough undulations on the planned circuit.
There was a chill in the Autumn air but by the time I arrived in Chipping I was suitably warmed up. The road I took follows the north side of Longridge Fell before dropping to Higher Hodder bridge. A steep little hill up past a once popular inn had me puffing and to be honest I was always a little out of breath on any incline from then on, I’m having difficulty getting cycling fit. Walking is so much more relaxing.
Great Mitton and its Medieval Church are skirted, then the road winds up through the Ribble Valley to Hurst Green. I’d planned a break here as there are seats on the village green. A walker with his Spaniel had bagged the best one, but I ate my banana on an adjacent bench before going over for a chat about all things local, a pleasant diversion.
Back in the saddle, I was soon back into Longridge, feeling rather tired from this modest ride. I had covered 22 miles but had ascended 1600ft in the process, there are no flat roads in the Ribble Valley.
And that’s about it. I didn’t take many photos.
Couldn’t resist another picture of Cromwell’s Bridge over the Hodder.
Hurst Green interlude.
On arrival back home this gigantic corkscrew had arrived on the building site opposite me. Earlier in the year we, the local residents, stopped Barratts, in the guise of homely David Wilson Homes, from disruptive pile driving on this site which is probably unsuitable in the first place for building on due to the shifting sands. They are now having to drill down 30–40 ft to find solid ground, don’t buy a house on Inglewhite Meadow.
Not a footpath in sight, not a stile climbed, not a fell summited, and you will be pleased to hear not a church visited. Oh! Well, maybe just one. My heel is playing up just when the weather is bucking up. Not to be defeated, I drag my bike out of the garage and do a few short rides around Longridge. So today I was ready for a longer ride. Out to Bashall Eaves, Cow Ark, Chipping, Whitechapel and back, about 29 miles (47 km) or so.
Cycling brings a different aspect to one’s locality. No flowers to identify, no birds to watch, no passing conversations. Just the tarmac ahead and that steep ascent looming. Today I concentrate on the inns that I pass, past and present. In the Ribble Valley and Bowland we have been lucky to have had an excellent selection of quality establishments. Rural inns have a long pedigree, their names tell us much of the local history. Unfortunately the country inn has suffered from economic pressures and several hostelries have bitten the dust. Covid has had a serious effect on the hospitality business.
On my corner is the Alston Arms, now The Alston which has had several reincarnations since its establishment in 1841. It has survived the COVID lockdowns and seems as busy as ever with locals, a large outside seating area has helped. Strange that I have not visited since over two years ago, when it was the favourite venue of my friend developing Alzheimer’s disease. She always ordered the same — fish, chips and mushy peas. And they were good!
The second one encountered on the road is the Derby Arms, recently reopened after a period under a fish franchise, The Seafood Pub Company, It looked open today for lunch, so all is well, hopefully. The area around here was part of the Derby Estate. The Stanley Family, Earls of Derby, established lands in Thornley here, hence the pub’s name.
Along the way through Chaigley I pass the former Craven Heifer Hotel. The Craven Heifer became a popular pub name, particularly in the Craven area, so I don’t know how one popped up in Bowland. This hotel was a regular eating place at the end of the last century, it closed Christmas Eve 2008. Since then, it has been a private residence.
On the way down to the Hodder I passed these gates which are normally locked. Today they were open, and I had a quick peep into their lands, with a lake and a large house in view. No idea who lives here. Chadswell Hall.
I stopped off at the Higher Hodder Bridge, the river was as low as I’ve seen for a while. Just up the road is the former Higher Hodder Hotel. This was another hotel with a long period of serving good food and ales. It became well known to the fishermen casting in the Hodder below. I noticed on an old photograph a petrol pump in its forecourt, those days are long gone. Its demise came in 2001 with a severe fire from the kitchen. Bought by a local businessman and converted into apartments. It still has problems with erosion from below where the Hodder flows, undermining the banks. One day it may all fall into the river.
At the next crossroads I knew of an ancient milestone but had never stopped to investigate, Today I had a good look at it. There was lettering on two sides with mileages. On the West face To Preston 10M. To Gisburn M8. On the North face To Lancaster 16M. To Whalley M3. 1766. It turns out that this is Grade II listed.
The next pub is the Red Pump in Bashall Eaves. This had been closed for some time when it was resurrected by the present owners in 2014, who turned it into a ‘gastropub’ with accommodation including recently added Glamping Yurts and Shepherd Huts. I notice that it has restricted opening hours, so calling in for a pint is not always possible. The pub has a connection to a murder mystery that was never solved.
Some serious pedalling has to be done climbing the road towards Browsholme Hall who have got in on the café scene. No time to visit today. On through the strangely named hamlet of Cow Ark and soon I’m freewheeling down the road which follows the line of the Roman Road from Ribchester to Carlisle and back over the Hodder at Doeford Bridge.
The Gibbon Bridge Hotel is a little farther on and has a history only going back to 1982 when the family diversified from farming to catering. Over the years the hotel has grown and particularly in recent times with the focus on weddings. They still do a good lunch in the dining room, with magnificent views over the gardens and Chipping Vale.
Chipping at one time had three pubs in the village. The Talbot has been closed for years and is looking in a sorry state. Opposite, the Tillotson’s is now open again but has annoyingly random hours, they were missing trade today as lots of tourists were wandering around the quaint village.
The Sun has had a renaissance and is now thriving both as a locals’ drinking pub and a reliable eatery. It is reputedly the most haunted pub in Lancashire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA1MZp3WYdI I couldn’t resist a wander around the churchyard looking for Lizzie Dean’s gravestone.
The Cobbled Corner Café has not reopened — it was a favourite with cyclists.
The Dog and Partridge just outside the village dates from the 16th century but closed in 2018 and is up for sale for residential development. Sign of the times.
I now head out to Whitechapel on narrow lanes under the shadow of Beacon Fell, When I first came to this area in the early seventies a curiosity was the Cross Keys Inn run by a farming family. It had irregular hours depending on work on the farm, a quirky bar, a good pool table. Late night sessions were common. At times, if the landlord was busy elsewhere, there was an honesty box for the drinks you had consumed. The inn was known, tongue in cheek, as The Dorchester! It closed over a decade ago but was bought by a local builder who has restored it along with accommodation units and has recently reopened it. Again, as the case with many of these rural pubs they are not open every day, particularly at the beginning of the week, but it is good to see it trading and I’ve promised myself a pint there soon.
Down the road is yet another Lancashire village, Inglewhite, centred on a village green and a cross. The pub here is called The Green Man and has a date stone of 1809. Green Men go back to pagan times and are a fairly common inn name — the sign here depicts a typical Green Man. This pub has been closed off and on for several years, reflecting the difficulties of successfully running a rural inn. Let’s hope it stays open for the foreseeable future. It was not open today!
Homeward-bound now with tiring legs, I pass the last rural pub — Ye Horns Inn. An 18th century listed building that closed four years ago. It had been run as a family business for decades, famous for its Goosnargh Roast Duck reared down the road, and its unique wooden panelled snug located behind the bar. New owners have developed the site with residential properties, but hope to reopen the pub soon. I await with bated breath. Another unique feature here is the men’s urinal across the road from the pub. Not sure how many drunken patrons were run down on this precarious crossing.
It is strange that my trip around all these rural inns didn’t involve any alcohol intake but as you saw several are closed for good, others concentrate on dining and others have limited opening. With a bit of organisation and forward planning, a right good pub cycle could be achieved around the eight trading pubs— but whether it would be legal or safe to ride a bike at the end of it would be debatable.
Thursday, July 15th. 7.5 miles. Knowle Green/Longridge Fell.
10am. As usual, I’m festering in bed with a second coffee and the day is drifting away. The high temperatures ensure I’m not rushing off anywhere. The phone rings and I prepare myself for fending off Amazon Prime or Netflix scams. But no, it is JD enquiring if I’m wasting the day or would I like a walk, 5 or 6 miles up the fell? I say yes to the latter and hurriedly sort myself out to meet him at the top of town. Things have gone quiet since my trips away, I’ve been bouldering up in Sweden Quarry the last few days, where there is shade from the hot sun, but my arms need a rest, so a walk is perfect.
We take the path through Green Banks Quarry housing estate, given planning permission on the understanding that it would be for tourist lets and bring prosperity to Longridge, what a joke. A bridleway goes down to the Written Stone, all familiar territory. We catch up, he’s been away in the Lakes, and I’ve been straight lining it to the North Sea. Our vague plan was to walk field paths above Knowle Green and then maybe climb up onto Longridge Fell.
Coincidentally, one of the last times I was here was with Sir Hugh on that straight line walk I mentioned earlier, back in winter 2019. https://bowlandclimber.com/2019/02/04/sd-38-longridge-to-barrow-whalley/ So I had a ready-made continuation walk on paths not known to JD or to many others, judging from their wildness. The same farmer who appeared from his run down house back in 2019 was eager to chat again today. He was all talk of shearing his sheep tomorrow and how if he penned them in on his cobbled area they would clean the yard of vegetation. There is no money in sheep wool these days. He warned us that the footpath ahead was difficult to follow, but I thought I knew better until we ended up in the wrong field. I did at least find the hidden way across Cowley Brook.
Working our way up pathless fields to Hougher Hall was hot work, the dreaded Horse Flies were a menace. The slate poem by the gate is a lovely reference to swallows, unfortunately there aren’t many about this year.
It was with some relief that we arrived at the open fell by the little reservoir. This where JD pulled out an ace and set his stove up to prepare a decent coffee with biscuits. Luxury. Friends of mine wild swim in this water, but I see that a ‘No Swimming’ notice has been erected since last I was here. Presumably, United Utilities Health and Safety.
Refreshed we continued up onto the fell, looking back the reservoir appeared hazily below. We had no need to visit the trig point, and it was now all downhill on the spine of aptly named Longridge Fell. There was some friendly discussion as to the length of our walk, JD’s 5 or 6 probably transformed to my 7 or 8 miles.
Guess what, we finished the afternoon having another coffee with his wife on their sunny patio with their wonderful Bowland Panorama.
It was a lovely evening when I got round to another litter pick on Longridge Fell, I’ve been away. A Sunday often gives good results. The fields below in the Chipping valley were a wonderful patchwork as some have been cut ahead of others. The usual cans and crisp packets occupy the first few hundred metres from the car park. From then on there was little in evidence, perhaps someone else is covering the same route? Tonight however I must have been following in the footsteps of a chain smoker as there were cigarette butts at regular intervals, 20 a day? I don’t know how he or she had the puff to get to the top. As well as being a litter problem, I wondered about the fire hazard, as the fell is much drier than usual..
On the way back down, curlews were making a racket and sure enough a dog walker had his spaniel running around the fell. Of course, “he was well-behaved off the lead”
A little farther I came across a bird watcher I knew, he’d also had words with the dog walker to no avail. We chatted about curlews and other species still to be seen up here.
By the time I got back to the car, the sun’s rays were becoming weaker. Always a walk worth doing.
I’ve been very good during the Pandemic, self-isolating for my own good, not mixing with my family or anyone else really, not travelling outside my area and living off home deliveries. The latter have been excellent, and I’ve put on a few pounds. Today I went high into the Bowland Fells for the first time in months. I felt strangely anxious, not wanting a helicopter rescue. But I have walked this route hundreds of times, it was once my evening fell run.
I parked in my little slot below Saddle End and walked slowly up the fell. As usual, I met no one going this way and I was so slow others would have overtaken me. Skylarks were in full song, and it was a joy to be on the hill.
I took the manufactured track across the side of the fell, but I had to deviate over the flagstones to take in the highest point, the cairn of Fairsnape Fell, 520 m. One can’t come up here without visiting the top, but apparently many do. I was rewarded in solitude with views over to the three Yorkshire Peaks area where friends were walking today – if they could get parked anywhere.
The beeline to Paddy’s Pole, the other summit of Fair Snape, 510 m, was easy as the peat hags had dried up in the last couple of weeks. You can hardly believe the difference in that time from limb sucking bogs to dry, even dusty, peat. Anyhow, I wasn’t complaining.
There was no one at the cairns or trig point on this westerly bit of Fair Snape Fell. I sat and ate an orange looking out to Morecambe Bay and the hazy Lake District. I spent some time scouting out for a flat area suitable for an overnight bivi. Last year, or the year before, I bivied out on Beacon Fell and Longridge Fell and I want to complete the trilogy which was halted last year.
Then it was fast walking around the fell rim towards Parlick, not forgetting to spot Nick’s Chair [Martin B]
Earlier in the day I’d spotted parapentes in the sky, launching from the more unusual east side of Parlick. I took the track in their direction hoping for some close up photos, but it seemed to be lunchtime. None were in the air. Some were still making their laborious way up. As soon as I was halfway down they stared appearing in the sky once more.I took the steep way down the fell.
Traversing lapwing fields took me back to the road and my solitary car. I managed to buy some excellent free-range eggs at the end of the lane.
Down came the soft top for an exhilarating drive home. I do feel I’ve been released. On a day like today up there in the Bowland Fells you couldn’t feel any different. A natural high.
My birthday happens to coincide with the date Lockdown commenced last year. There seemed quite a fuss about this [not my birthday], whilst I have every sympathy with the thousands of families affected by Covid deaths and they should not be forgotten, I am not one for lighting candles or creating memorial days for an event we have not dealt with very satisfactorily. I would almost go so far as to say they are devious attempts by the government to distract our attention from the failings and flag wave for our vaccine successes. Dangerous tactics.
Back to today’s walk, which I have completed many times recently, to make an occasion of it I took a picnic with me to enjoy higher up. Last year I visited the limestone quarry opposite Arbour Farm occasionally for its wildlife so as I pass today I have a look in. There are a couple of roe deer scampering away and a hare following. It’s too soon for any significant flowers but there a few mallards on the water and pheasants taking cover. In the past this area has been used as a shoot and the birds fed in the season. All around are spent shotgun cartridges. I take particular note as I’ve just been reading a DEFRA report of the latest attempts to ban lead ammunition. Lead ammunition could be phased out under government plans to help protect wildlife and nature, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow announced today (23 March). There has been a wealth of evidence that lead is damaging to humans, wildlife and the environment and yet a large amount of lead ammunition is discharged every year. Apart from the yearly slaughter of birds there is research showing wild fowl ingest lead pellets, mistaken for food, causing considerable deaths from poisoning. The Government have been slow to do anything about it and a voluntary transition by the shooting industry has not worked. A recent review showed the majority of game birds sold to the public had been killed using lead shot. So all change then – well not quite – the Government is proposing a two-year review of the evidence and then public consideration. A typical fudge when the hunting and shooting brigade are involved. Why don’t we just get on and ban it now. [In Denmark, hunters have had to use alternatives since 1996, when lead shot was banned]
Moving on I made my way up onto the fell and found a sheltered spot for my simple Birthday picnic in a little quarry nearby. I have recently started climbing in here again after many years, there is a small wall suitable for bouldering away from the Covid crowds that are making themselves unwelcome at the usual bouldering spot, Craig Y Longridge. It is up here that I have been regularly seeing Barn Owls flying around at dusk. Today a kestrel was hovering not far from me and a pair of Buzzards were wheeling high in the sky. Nice place for a picnic in the sun.
I wander home down the switchback lane. I had various texts etc appear on my phone from absent friends and family and in my porch a box of beer and a single malt. Not such a bad birthday after all.
We drive the 4 miles to Chipping and meet up in the village hall car park. I had promised Mike it would be sunny for him to have a morning away from the builders working on his garage. He is pitching the roof, adding solar panels, electric charge point and enlarging his drive with stone sets etc. etc. I think it is a larger job than he had first envisaged, though he should know. Anyhow there was no sign of the sun, in fact it was grey and cold when we set off at 9.30.
This is a walk we have done many times, but it makes use of, on the whole, well surfaced farm tracks in the foothills of the Bowland Hills. The snowdrops in the grounds of Leagram Hall had finished flowering which was a shame though there were primroses on the lane banks. From Laund sheep farm we cut across to renovated Park Gate where the only field of the day linked up with tracks at the empty Park Style. This whole area is rough upland and the Lapwings and Curlews were in good evidence today. They get a chance to breed up here as the fields don’t get cut until later in the year, if ever. A pair of Buzzards are soaring high above. Down one of the tracks we see a stoat in its white winter coat running ahead of us, quite exciting. At Lickhurst we meet up with the bridleway coming from Saddle Side, not taken today because it is very boggy in parts. There were notices on the gate warning people not to take vehicles along it. This is the first time I’ve seen this but apparently during lockdown 4X4s have been coming out in the night on these lanes. Of course most of them have been registered in Manchester/Liverpool, often with no tax or insurance. There are a group of people who think they can do what they like and escape notice during lockdown. The track has been severely damaged by these morons.
We walk on down the road and over three bridges which have replaced fords in the time I’ve lived in the area, Lickhurst could be impossible to reach after heavy winter rain in the past. I show Mike the long single span clapper bridge, 6 metres of solid grit stone, and we wonder how they handled it here. It must have been brought here from some distance as all is limestone in the vicinity. Upstream is a fish ladder I’ve not noticed before.
We walk on past that isolated iconic red phone box…
We have friends living in the next group of houses and we have a chat and an illicit coffee over the garden wall. Sheila has a heavenly glow in the photo. The bridleway leading onwards crosses the beck encountered before at a ford, fortunately there is a footbridge just up stream, [Greystoneley Brook which soon joins the Hodder at Stakes Farm near the stepping stones] This whole area has had its trees harvested last year and looks very bare, but thousands of new trees have been planted so it will be interesting to see how it matures.
The lane passes close to a large almost intact lime kiln in an extensive quarry, another detour. At the end of the lane we meet a chatty horse rider.
On the road back Mike met a retired school teacher who was responsible for getting his children off to a good start. More catching up chat ensues. With all the ‘delays’ we don’t get back to the car till nearly 2pm by which time the sun has come out.
Whilst mentioning the birds we saw today I should also like to report that most evenings while I’ve been bouldering up on the fell a pair of barn owls have been quartering the open areas, a majestic sight as they fly past close by without a sound. The days are getting noticeably longer and there have been some beautiful sunsets to coincide with the Spring equinox.
My last walk, at the weekend with Mike, was through the fields and lanes of Chipping Vale with a little nibble at the west end of Longridge Fell. All very repetitive, so much so I didn’t take a single photo but the conversation must have been good. A couple of days have been spent festering, you know how it is. Today started slowly until I made the effort to get going and put some mileage under my belt. Starting from home the obvious way to increase my mileage was to continue along the road to the north of Longridge Fell before striking to the top. I noticed a few more roadside signs on the way.
Lee House Church.
Exquisite carved trough.
C17th Thornley Hall.
Entering Chaigley. Note the rake as a notch in the fell side woods.
I did consider going all the way to Higher Hodder Bridge but as I hadn’t set out till 1pm I thought it a little ambitious. [another time] I left the road at Rakefoot Farm and climbed the steep rake from there up onto the fell east of the summit. Once on the ridge I threaded my familiar way through the trees and into the open at the trig point. There was nobody else about. From up here one gets a bird’s eye view of the Thornley road below which I’d walked earlier.
It is all downhill from Jeffrey Hill to Longridge, a good way to end the afternoon.
The last couple of days I’ve been out bouldering in all that lovely sunshine. My arms and shoulders are now rebelling. I felt like a longer walk so planned this one on roads for today. It was grey and cold this morning, so I managed to faff around until after a light lunch, brisk walking was then the order of the day. The road through Thornley doesn’t always have a pavement so dodging from side to side on the corners is necessary. I passed Lord’s Lane and Birks Brow, two regular ways up onto the fell and continued on past Thornley Hall to climb the steep lane up Jeffrey Hill, this part of Longridge Fell. [see inserted map and elevation graph]
Even today there were plenty of cars in the car park by Cardwell House, but they would not have any views as the Bowland Hills were in cloud.
Cutting through Cowley Brook plantation, my latest discovery, avoided a little of the road to the Newdrop. I was then on the switchback road heading down to Longridge. It wasn’t a day for taking pictures or for meeting people so I was soon back home but glad of the exercise.
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?
Halfway up the steep Birk’s Brow lane I stopped for a breath; there was little to see in the murk, my mind had switched off a mile back, I was not even sure why I was there. Had I come to my Covid lockdown impasse? Had the repetition and boredom caught up with me? Was there a way out from this pandemic? I was taken aback by this negativity that had suddenly descended upon me. Was my hope fading? I had imagined I’d been coping well with all the setbacks and heartaches of the last year but was this the reckoning I had to face? Too many questions for which I couldn’t find an answer. I moved on in a cloud of my own making.
I have mentioned in several posts the poems written on old slates that have appeared around Longridge during these troubled times. Uplifting themes and thoughts for us all to share. I often wondered who was the artist of these calligraphic verses. Well around the corner a lady pulled up in her car and proceeded to pick up the cracked slate there. “Do you know ?… are you the person ?…” I’d stumbled on the originator of all these slate poems. She had started with one and then been encouraged to do more with friends recommending poems. I was overjoyed to speak to the lady.
My day was saved, and I walked on through Longridge with a spring in my step.
Again I set off from home on familiar paths to Gill Bridge where I skated up the icy road before I took the path along Elmridge. Elmridge is a small eminence in the Vale of Chipping between the Bleasdale Fells and Longridge Fell, its position giving it good views of the area. These views are better on the road across the top rather than on my footpath along the southern side, but I’d not walked this way for several years. A friend has moved into a little house along here, so I was able to have a few words in passing. The family have adopted lots of stray kittens and have some fine fowl. The next farm along, again owned by a friend who has recently died is surrounded by woodlands that he planted over the years, a fitting memorial.
It wasn’t the clearest of days but Longridge Fell was always there.
In Hesketh Lane I passed the site of an old mill now strangely used as a depot for a local coach firm. The mill stream is clearly visible and a notice tells of recently installed fish ladders to allow fish and eels access higher up the stream. The Dog and Partridge is sadly closed, like several other old inns of the area. Notice the cheese press stone, a common sight in this area of Lancashire. I took the curiously named Judd Holmes Lane through frozen fields leading me back to the Knott Farm where I was the other day.. This time I made the detour to visit the little church at Lee House. Be sure to have a look at – https://www.lan-opc.org.uk/Chipping/stwilliam/index.html for some interesting history.
I then joined the crowds walking along the pavements to Longridge. We should all be a lot fitter after this pandemic is over.
The main road from Longridge to Chipping, which is busier than ever, passes through the small parish of Thornley with Wheatley which you won’t have heard of. It is not a village but merely a scattering of houses and farms. Today’s walk came this way. I’m resigned to those local footpaths that I walked to death in last Spring’s lockdown, but I’m looking for variations. Yesterday it rained continuously, and I didn’t get out of my dressing gown such is the tedium of Covid-19 lockdown that brings inertia on me one or two days a week. But today the sun shone and I had roughly plotted this route the night before which gives a degree of impetus to get up and go.
I leave Longridge along a rather boggy Clay Lane, the snow has gone and the frost is dispersing. Back in the last century there were tile works hereabouts. I was soon across the fields to Gill Bridge over the infant River Loud, today running fast with melt water. I traversed the estate of Blackmoss owned by the Lord Derby family since the C18th. The Derby Arms in is just up the road as is Thornley Hall. Vague paths which I know well crossed over to The Knott farm which is lying empty since the farmer died last year. He was seeped in the land and always seen in his tweed jacket and wellington’s, you could always tell if he was in the local supermarket by a distinct manure odour. He would turn up at my house occasionally with either a tray of 36 eggs or a basket of field mushrooms if they were in season. His sort will be sadly missed.
The empty Knott Farm
I recrossed the Loud and took the little lanes past Wheatley Farm house, 1774, at the base of Longridge Fell. Down the road is Lee House RC church and the old Thornley School which I didn’t visit and wished I had.
Lane to Wheatley.
Eventually I had to commit to the climb past Dale House and into the woods before coming out onto the golf course above. I was then back on that road leading back to Longridge which I’ve used regularly the last few weeks.
Dale House farm.
Parlick and Fairsnape from the golf course.
Old gate post to Longridge Golf Course established with Preston Cycling Club.
A short diversion was taken to see if I could get a photo of that highland cow with its calf. I managed a better picture of the mother but the infant kept its backside to me. A friend was climbing at Craig y Longridge our local bouldering venue and others were out running up the fell, everyone taking advantage of the sunny weather. An extract from The Lancashire Village Book gives more history here – http://www.visitoruk.com/Blackburn/thornley-with-wheatley-C592-V28146.html
My walk started at the top of Longridge today to avoid the village itself. The roads were icy and tricky with a light dusting of overnight snow. Judging by the footprints people already had been out and about in the morning sunshine. The little reservoir was frozen over, the golf course deserted. I caught up with a couple who had just joined the road, and we leapfrogged our ways up the fell chatting at a distance.
As expected the car park at Cardwell House was busy and lots of people joined us on the rough ground leading to the trig point, 350 m. The view over Chipping Vale to the Bowland Fells was rather hazy and out to Yorkshire was thick mist. It was relaxing to be out on the fell in the sunshine, fresh air and open scenery, we felt it an ideal antidote to our Covid-19 problems. Magic. The couple themselves live lower down on the fell and have similar views from their back garden. We discovered that we had similar interests and acquaintances. I was reminded of an old song from the back of my mind and play it here if they look in.
Moving on I continued along the fell until a new little path that I’ve found into the conifers and eventually onto the south side of the fell. My path took me past a small reservoir, lodge, where last year some of my friends have been open water swimming, not today.Now back on the road it was a simple stroll to Longridge. A highland cow has been transported here along with the snow.
I had feedback, see Conrad and Eunice’s comments, on that Peggy Lee version of ‘The Folk Who Live on the Hill’ It was written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein for the 1937 film High, Wide and Handsome. Since then everyone seems to have recorded it from Nina Simone to Eric Clapton, it has become a jazz classic I’ve looked around for alternative versions with less cream although they all struggle to avoid clotting. I think you will find these interesting and diverse.
First off that brilliant saxophonist Stan Getz gives a mellow performance more representative of the mood on Longridge Fell yesterday.
A bluesy version from Sarah Vaughan
A typical outing from Stephane Grappelli here accompanied by Oscar Peterson.
A touching version from a lady, unknown to me, with a beautiful voice, Maxine Sullivan and a great Dick Hyman electric organ backing which makes it my favourite.
A more modern saxophone low-key take from Joshua Redman.
And finally a more upbeat version by the Guy Lombardo Orchestra with vocals from brother Carmen Lombardo.
The days over Xmas have been all of a sameness, and now we are heading into a new year. Getting out in the good weather has helped the old year drift away. Mike is back from his family Christmas in Leeds, so we meet up in Chipping. I park next to the Village Memorial Hall which Mike designed way back in 1999, it is still looking good. We set off along past the Congregational Chapel and Club Row cottages. If you have a spare hour or so for a walk around Chipping Village and need some history have a look at http://www.chippinghistory.co.uk/page4.html
The lanes are virtually traffic free, and we have views across the misty valley to a wintry Pendle and Longridge Fell [header photo]. Passing a few scattered farms we start climbing towards the hills.
Chipping Village Hall.
All of a sudden a silent glider flashes above us coming in low to land in the field alongside. This is Chipping Gliding Club. Their gliders are often seen above the Bleasdale ridges. Around the corner the lanes were clogged with the parked cars of the masses climbing Parlick perhaps for some sledging for the children.
We carried on uphill before plunging down an icy stretch to the buildings of Wolfen Mill, a former water powered mill making spindles and bobbins for local mills. Up again, and we are on the remote road to Saddle Fell and beyond, classical Bowland scenery. Our roller coaster continued by Birchen Lee and Chipping Lawn sheep farm into the parkland of Leagram before the narrow streets of Chipping. What a splendid little walk ending with another of those late December skies.