This week I have been alternating short walks and flat cycle rides with nothing of note to report. Everything came to a standstill yesterday with the collision of cold winds from the north with a front from the south. Amber warning. My son cancelled a lunchtime visit from Manchester and I watched the snowflakes falling in the afternoon. During the night things must have turned nasty as today I woke to a couple of inches of snow. (The radio told of far worse conditions in the Pennines) It was interesting to try and identify the tracks across my back garden, one doesn’t know what transpires in the night. Something I should resolve either with sitting up into the wee hours or more likely installing a motion detecting camera.
By mid-morning the sun had appeared and traffic started using my road. Time to get out and about. The tossed coin said walk. So I did. A brand-new pair of lightweight boots had arrived in the post. Helly Hansen and looking perfect for summer walking – right let’s try them out in some snow. Living in Longridge I am lucky to be able to walk from my doorstep into the open countryside or as I did today up onto the fell. The route on roads was one of my regular runs way back then. I knew it would give me good Bowland views with the minimum of hassle.
Once out of the village ‘Forty Acre Lane’ gave me those promised views. I’m not sure which side the ‘forty acres’ are on but never mind the vista across Chipping Vale to the hills is uplifting. The snow on the south slopes was visibly melting as I walked but showed up the features of the Parlick, Fairsnape and Totridge Fells in great detail. Virtually no cars passed me, the road was just thawing enough for them. There were still drifts in the gateways. The golf course was closed, perhaps prematurely as the afternoon was perfect.
The usual crowd of cars was parked up at Jeffrey Hill. From up here the northern slopes of Pendle Hill were plastered with snow – they usually have it worse in East Lancashire. I was in two minds to take to the fells with the rest of them and visit Spire Hill, instead keeping to the road but no sooner had I decided this I was tempted off into Cowley Brook Plantation. My favourite getaway place. It was a joy to tread virgin snow through the trees. Silence was everywhere except for those little birds singing unseen.
Back out on the lower road I trudged back along the switchbacks to Longridge as the temperature started to fall again. The roadside gorse was a brilliant yellow.
How good that sunshine must have done for my endomorphins.
I may have used this title for a post in the past. Whilst fellow bloggers are exploring Manchester, White Nancy, Covid and Wildlife crimes I’m content with a walk around my local lanes. After my drubbing, is that a word, the other day on the Guild Wheel cycle route contentment is the prime objective. I live on the edge of the countryside, but only just with all the new developments, so for many walks I don’t need my car – just set off from the front door.
The road out of the village past the cricket ground is far busier than I ever remember it, a speedway to Chipping. That is why for my cycling these days I prefer the off-road routes. Anyhow, I’m walking today. Storm Otto blew itself out here in the morning and now the sun is shining. As I was saying the road is busy and after a stretch where the footpath ends I resort to evasive action crossing and recrossing to have a straight view of the traffic and hopefully them me. All along are views of the Bowland Hills tempting me to the north. Past that archetypal country inn.
Is that a Kestrel in the tree?
I survive to where I turn up a side lane heading for Longridge Fell. Those white railings, sited on corners for better through visibility, are slowly disappearing – a rural crime.
I stop to talk to a farmer about the winters we never have these days. (tempting fate I know). Along comes a car which stops to reveal a dog walking friend fresh off the fell and heading for a nearby farm café, a good catch up ensures. I’m then admiring the hedge layering skills along the way and am lucky enough to come across the skilled labourer himself. A chain saw now makes the labour easier, but he has to be careful with the final close cut. A bill hook finishes off the branch severing, leaving a slender life giving, bent over, horizontal, stem for further growth. The whole process is to keep the hawthorn hedge thick at the base and stock proof in the future. He seems happy in his work and as he says ” jobs a goodun”
There is a steep hill ahead of me but I have no problem which is reassuring after my last outing mentioned above. (my Covid test was negative by the way) On the way up my mind wanders to future projects – Simon Armitage’s Stanza Stones, finishing off my Cicerone series, getting back on the rock, visiting friends afar not seen since before the lockdown and dare I hope getting back to the Canary Islands. Dreams. Inshallah.
I scan the reservoir for grebes, but the water is too rough today, I’m hoping to catch them in their courting display this year after last year being entertained by the chicks being carried on their mother’s back.
Down through the housing estates and I call in at JD’s for a welcome coffee and plans. A ghostly barn owl quarters across the remaining fields in front of his house. He alerts me to this signage along the road which I had not noticed before – see me after school.
Forget the rugged and isolated high tops of the Bowland Fells with their difficult peaty ways. This walk is for children, dogs and geriatrics like me.
Mike, or should I bestow on him a blog monicker of ‘metal Micky‘ used by his nearest and dearest after his second hip replacement, is going walking in the Canaries and is keen to get some miles under his belt. I put him off yesterday whilst I had a well-earned rest from our walk around the wells of Silverdale. No pun intended and no excuse today, I even went for an early start, so he could be home by 3pm for the televised rugby. We juggled a couple of routes and plumped for what is called locally the Little Bowland area.
A gentle start into the Leagram Estate with a peer over the wall at their extensive snowdrop dell which I managed to gain entry to last year. The fallen oak in the parkland from then has been cleared.
A drift of snowdrops.
A stately Leagram Oak.
The farm at Chipping Lawn (lawn derived from ‘laund’, a Medieval grassy area for deer) was heaving with lambs of all ages, weaned off their mothers. The mothers can then continue to be milked for Bowland Ewes Cheese. The youngsters meanwhile suck on dummy dummies for powdered milk. That is the evolved technical face of farming today.
A mob of lambs.
We move on up the fell, passing Birchen Lee where a couple are busy laying flags. They are happy to chat about the locality. I know he crafts handmade furniture from seasoned oak which I would like to see, but I’m reluctant to distract him from his labours. We move on.
I have no spare coins to buy some free-range eggs at the Saddle Side farm road end. We move on up the lane going nowhere except a couple of properties at isolated Burnslack in the bosom of Bowland. We don’t go that far but turn off on an ancient bridleway along the base of the fells to Lickhurst, another isolated group of farmsteads now being gentrified as is the norm. I could tell some stories of these farms 50 years ago when reaching them in winter was an epic journey. Let’s leave them in peace, I don’t even take a picture, but there are some on my posts somewhere if you care to look.
Our high bridleway over Stanley to LIckhurst.
Let’s extend the walk and give us both a bit more exercise. So instead of following the lane down over fords we cross a little footbridge, and suddenly we are in limestone country. Coral atolls out of an ancient ocean floor, from whichever period, producing Limestone Reef Knolls. They are very obvious around here.
Coral reefs ahead.
Dinkling Green farmsteads our are turnaround point, we could have continued over the hills to Whitewell and beyond. We are in a beautiful green bowl of meadows below the high gritstone fells and the adjacent Limestone knolls. We meet a couple who live here who expound the virtues of their natural environment, there is no denying it.
The green side of Bowland.
Local residents heading home for lunch.
Then that iconic red phone box in the middle of nowhere. It must have been essential at one time.
We couldn’t walk past our friends’ house at Greystoneley without a knock, next thing we are seated in their kitchen enjoying conversation, coffee and cake. That’s what friends are for. They have had problems in this area with off-road vehicles.
The 3 o’clock deadline is getting closer as we continue down the bridleway, over the ford and past the giant limekiln. We opt for a hopefully quicker finish along the quiet road rather than the difficult to follow field paths.
Back in the parkland.
The exercise has done us both good, I’m relaxing in the bath whilst presumably ‘metal Micky’ is watching England thrash the Italians – or are they?
This circuit is recommended for anybody wanting to explore the foothills of Bowland and its farming communities. Just follow the map.
I came across this temporary CCTV installation on my walk across the fields this morning. Notice how blue the sky is.
Placed in a field next to tracks leading to isolated farms and a back way into Ferraris Country Hotel. Four solar-powered cameras pointing around the compass. Have there been recent burglaries or fly tipping? I am sure it’s not to watch the animals or ramblers. Further enquiries are needed.
I was out for a short brisk walk in the countryside behind my house, there had been overnight light snow which always gives a different atmosphere to the familiar, making the fells look higher and more majestic. There was a satisfying crunch underfoot, mine were the only footprints. Though there were prints of rabbits, hare, deer, and the odd bird who had passed by earlier. The snow was rapidly melting in the fields but compacting to an icy danger on the lanes.
The Bowland Fells.
Soon I was heading up an icy Mile Lane back into the village for a bit of shopping.
The remaining snow had a rosy glow in tonight’s Turneresque sunset.
Woke up, fell out of bed Dragged a comb across my head Found my way downstairs and drank a cup And looking up, I noticed I was late Found my coat and grabbed my hat Made the bus in seconds flat.
Lennon and McCartney. 1967.
Fast-forward 56 years and I almost missed the bus today and the chance of a walk above Chipping. I was lounging in bed with my second coffee of the day, struggling with The Times Crossword. A little hungover from our family’s delayed Xmas/New Year celebrations taken yesterday. My prize present was a bottle of malt.
The forecast was for showers off and on all day. Why do we listen to these updated seaweed predictions? I see out of the corner of my bloodshot eye, from the injury not the whisky, blue skies over all my new neighbours’ new houses. Looking closer all seems good out there.
Made the bus in seconds flat. The stop is handily placed on the corner of my road, and I was soon in Chipping. All part of my intent to make more use of public transport this year.
The walk I quickly improvised is on good surfaces but virtually traffic free and takes you in a circle to the base of the Bowland Hills and back. I’ve described it most recently here and there in more detail.
The sky was blue, there was no wind and the views seemed clearer than usual. Into the grounds of Legram Hall I was on a private road threading its way past farms and sheep country to the open fells, although I wouldn’t be tackling them today. Too early for the snowdrop display I strolled onwards with frequent looks back across the ancient deer park to the dark side of Longridge Fell and the sunnier Pendle. I’d put some loose change into my pocket so that I could purchase free-range eggs from the honesty box of Saddle End Farm – alas there were none left. We are in the middle of Avian Flu and there seems to be a shortage of eggs everywhere. Are the hens on strike with the rest of the country?
Skipping on, down the lane past mills and old foundries. This was an industrial landscape not so long ago. Now there is a Lancashire cheese factory and the remainder of Kirk Mill.
My ‘find of the day’ was some steps in front of the Chair Work’s cottages. I’ve never noticed them before, but they lead down directly into Chipping Brook, which had powered the mills. For what purpose? Washing place for the cottagers, connected with the cotton era for cleansing the fabrics – I’ve no idea, please help.
I had time for a coffee in the wonderful Cobbled Corner Cafe before catching the 2.30 bus home.
Our lane is being dug up for a new gas main. They started last Saturday and will be around for 7 – 10 weeks. By the Sunday my gas gave out, there was no note pushed through the door in way of explanation and there were no workmen in the road. With dread, I phoned the help line of Cadent. Remarkably I was speaking to a helpful human within minutes. He saw no reason for my gas to be disconnected. After the usual details were verified he sent me off to the meter cupboard, I grabbed a torch on the way.
“Press button A – what does it say?” “Account”
“Press button B – what does it say?” “No”
“Press both buttons – what does it say?” “OK”
After a few more sequences like this, I don’t have a button C, he instructed to hold button A for 6 seconds.
“What does it say?” “On”
“Go and try your gas hobs” And yes there was a flow of gas, magic. He thought my smart meter had developed a fault possibly with a short interruption to the gas flow on the Saturday, not so smart after all. As customer care services go that was one of the better ones, thank you Cadent.
The week passed as they came and went gradually digging most of the road up. It’s great because there is no longer any through traffic, we have unfortunately become a bit of a rat run in recent years – hasn’t everywhere?. All peace and quiet now except when they star drilling at 7.30 am.
A note was pushed through my door saying they would need access to the property this Saturday whilst they connected me to the new main. That was unfortunate as today was the sunniest day of the week, the high pressure mist having eventually lifted. My gas disappeared in the morning as a gang of workmen descended on the hole outside my house.
I lit my wood burner for the first time this winter, more for Seth my cat than myself, and settled in with a new book. Eventually a couple of likely lads in muddy boots knocked to check my meter. I didn’t like the look of the monkey wrench with which they attacked my fragile looking connecting pipe. Then there was some muttered discussion about the age and state of the stop lever. Every step of their work was duly photographed with a phone, uploaded immediately to head office. They then disappeared for half an hour or so to get some other equipment or inspiration. I was beginning to fear the worst. I pottered in the garden in the beautiful weather. Back they came and had another look without doing anything obvious, leaving me to await an ‘engineer’ in a couple of hours or so to reconnect me and check my appliances. As the afternoon dragged on I was itching to put my boots on and get up the fell to enjoy the brightest of days.
The ‘engineer’ arrived and poked about in the meter box. Mutterings about the wrong readings and he was on the phone to someone. ” I haven’t a F*****G idea what I’m doing” didn’t impress me. I kept looking at the disappearing sunlight, but he stuck to his slow laborious routine. All systems go eventually, and I thanked him for his work, he didn’t seem particularly enthused by it. Everything about my connection to the new gas main had worked well, and I complement Cadent for the operation, although I doubted its outcome at times. There will be a lot more houses to connect and more holes to dig and fill before the lane is open again, but now I’m OK Jack I’ll just relax and enjoy the traffic free few weeks.
I was up the road to Jeffrey Hill in no time for a short walk to the trig point and back. The low winter sunlight was enchanting. At the gate I came across a well-dressed man with a pod stick, tripod and microphone on his lapel. It transpires he has been producing a Vlog on the nearby Roman Road, his site is Roman Gazette if I remember correctly which I will check out later. We chat all things Roman as the shadows are lengthening. It’s now 3.30 as I set off again, everyone else is descending. Chipping Vale takes on some beautiful colours as the sun prepares to set. Up at the wall another decorated Xmas tree has appeared, smaller than the one higher up but with the tinsel glittering in the low sun. It’s a quick turnaround at the trig point, no ponies today. I come back down virtually blinded by the disappearing sun creating an almost Turner like landscape. I add a couple of baubles to the higher tree in passing.
I have just enough time to take a couple of shots of the windblown tree, one of my favourites up here. That reminds me that I should venture along the Hodder and check out that other old favourite – ‘The Winkley Oak’ in case it suffered any damage in last winter’s storms. Quite a few ancient oaks blew down in the Beast from the East.
By the time I hit the road all is dark, and the cars have their headlamps on. Strangely when I arrive in the car park there are still half a dozen cars, are people camping on the fell or just misjudged how quickly it becomes almost pitch dark?
An hour walk snatched from the end of a glorious day.
I’m happy to switch on my gas central heating and find everything in good order, it could have gone horribly wrong as in this little ditty from the past. How many of you member it?
Funny how the day turns out. I’ve been festering in the house for a few days due to some minor medical problems – but you don’t want to know about them. Midday I drive to the supermarket for supplies, why don’t I walk as it is only 500 m around the corner? I’ve just not felt like exercise as I said. Emerging after yet another troubled time with the self-service till, I do so much prefer a chat with a friendly cashier, (We are becoming so isolated from each other, have you noticed?) the brilliance of the day hits me. Blue sky, warmish sunshine and a pleasant breeze, ideal for a walk.
I ponder where would be best for a short walk. Longridge Fell above me is an obvious choice, but I have come unprepared in lightweight trainers and I suspect after our recent rain the going will be boggy. Across the valley the Fairsnape/Wolf Fell ridge looks inviting, but again I only came out to buy a few vegetables. However, slightly dwarfed there is Beacon Fell; good paths, good views and a café. Perfect for my present ambivalent mood – at least I’ll get some fresh air.
Narrow confusing country lanes take me across Chipping Vale and up to the free of charge Quarry car park. A gang of three volunteers are cutting back the vegetation. The country park relies on volunteers, a pang of guilt passes by me. Strangely mine is the only car in the quarry.
I set off in a clockwise direction on the well maintained paths not too worried about which one I take, they all lead to the same place, eventually. It strikes me that I was originally inspired to get some exercise because of the sunshine and I now find myself deep in the rather gloomy forest. Never mind I soon come out into the open near the main metered car park and visitor centre. The café here prided itself on being open 364 days of the year, but I find it closed today. Another aftermath of Covid. Thursday to Sunday only now, what a shame, will it ever now make a comeback?
I wander up to the Orme Sight statue by Thompson Dagnall, I think the original art installation in the park. Looking through his one eye one can see far away, yes the Orme on the North Wales coast.
From here I take minor forest trods upwards. Most of the storm damage which I experienced here last time has been cleared, must be all those volunteers again. There is not much sign of Autumn in the woods as nearly all the trees are spruce. I find myself on a ‘Sculpture trail’ and spot one or two new to me. Then I confidently find the correct path to the top of the Beacon with its trig point. There is nearly always someone here enjoying the view.
“The triangulation pillar is situated on the site of where the beacon would have stood. Records show that there was a beacon here as long ago as 1002 AD. Later maps show it as part of a chain used to warn of impending danger such as the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588. More recent beacons have been used to celebrate such occasions as coronations and jubilees. Rising to a height of 266 metres above sea level the summit gives fantastic panoramic views of the Bowland Fell and Parlick Fell, with the coast beyond, Morecambe Power station and Blackpool Tower.”
I’ve seen it all before and as it is blowing a hoolie at the summit I move on quickly along the northern side of the hill to find a way towards the car park. I’m still the only car parked up which I strangely find a little spooky. A good 2.5 mile unintentional walk in and out of the trees. I was glad I had come out to the shops in the first place. Back at Craig Y a friend was going through the motions on the start of the traverse. I delayed him with talk of Warhol, Amsterdam, trees and Truss.
Losing the sunshine.
Cleared storm damage.
A ‘green woman’
The breezy beacon.
The spooky car park.
I’m looking forward to an even better day tomorrow.
I have not pulled my boots on for a month or so. Today was too windy for cycling, so a short local walk was in order. Do you remember those days of lockdown when only short excursions were allowed – I stuck to the rules. I walked through the fields to Gill Bridge, on through Ferraris country hotel (doing takeaways only) and back along the almost empty road. I repeated the same walk or variations many times, using hand sanitiser after every gate latch or stile. Others had the same idea and the footpaths became well trodden and easy to follow.
We are two years on from there, most of us have had Covid and thankfully survived and life is moving on. We are however faced with another batch of problems, but let’s not dwell on those today. It’s time for some fresh air and exercise.
I repeat that same four mile route from my house. It does not look as though many others are walking the paths. They are overgrown and unloved. No need for hand sanitiser any more, did it ever do any good? The views have not changed, and I’m surrounded by the Bowland Fells and Longridge Fell. The clouds blow through in the blustery winds with odd bursts of sunshine.
I find chestnuts, ‘conkers’, where I hadn’t realised there were chestnut trees. A handful go into my pocket for planting later and while I’m at it collect some oak nuts, acorns. Beech nuts are in profusion along the roadside. Unidentified fungi are seen in the fields. Hawthorn berries add a touch of rouge to the hedgerows.
Into the outdoors.
Autumn’s fruitfulness is our bonus for this splendid short rural walk on my doorstep. My spirits are lifted, and our other problems put in their place.
I mustn’t leave it so long before I next tread these paths, they don’t deserve to be forgotten.
It’s two months since I was last able to do a walk out of Mark Sutcliffe’s guide book. Finding one locally I strode out today on his Jeffrey Hill chapter. The suggestion was to park at Little Town Dairy, a farm shop, nursery and café. I feel guilty using a businesses’ car park if I’m not giving them any business so I parked by the road higher up on the route, which was to prove tiresome later in the day.
I had reservations about the initial route through the upmarket barn conversions at Dilworth Brow Farm, previously a run down property. There was no need to worry, the path through was obvious, and even the local dog was friendly. Every farm seems to be erecting holiday lodges, Is this a result of the recent ‘staycation’ mentality?
An uncertain start.
Once into fields I could enjoy views over the Ribble Valley and distant Pendle as I dropped to an ancient bridleway. Being enclosed and sunken this was once a boggy mess, but drainage has been installed and an upgraded grit surface added. This was only a short section of the right of way, one wonders why certain paths are improved (a further one later) when others are neglected.
Note the size of the left-hand gatepost.
I made the obligatory short diversion to view the Written Stone, I have written of this before,excuse the pun. A car passes down the farm lane, I thought I recognised friends from years ago and regretted not stopping them. As I walked through the tidy environs of Cottam House I asked a man about the history of the place, he turned out to be the son of the above couple. So we had a catch-up, I passed on my regards and walked on.
The Written Stone.
This was the start of a slow climb back up to the ridge of Longridge Fell. Rough ground skirting the golf club and then the road up to Jeffrey Hill at Cardwell House. A large walking group was coming past and didn’t seem over friendly, head down mentality. There was a straggler taking some interest in his surroundings. We ended up in a long conversation about all things, as he said “it’s not dark till late”. I felt he had lost connection with the route march he had been on. Nobody came looking for him.
Up to Jeffrey Hill.
The Ribble Valley and Pendle.
No time for stragglers.
I took a picture of the iconic view which I mentioned in a recent post. A ‘glass wall’ has replaced the iron railings depicted in the painting I own from 40 years ago.
That view from Jeffrey Hill.
Nearby was a bench for refreshments. Some stones had been intricately carved as part of an art sculpture from 2014, It was a shame they removed the star of the installation, the Sun Catcher.
Remains of the sculpture installation.
Now steeply downhill, look at the contours, ending up on the road at Thornley Hall. The ford leading off the road was surprisingly full. The next bit of track starts as a track but quickly becomes an overgrown narrow path, the book advises a stick for hacking back the vegetation. I happily swashbuckled my way along and at the end came onto another strange short stretch of gritted path.
Looking back up to Jeffrey Hill.
The listed C18th Thornley Hall.
A promising start to the bridleway…
…soon becomes this…
…and then unexpectedly this.
Familiar lanes took me past Wheatley Farm and a house that always has a splendid floral display. Onto the busy main road where care is needed on the bend. I was glad to be back in the peaceful fields of Chipping Vale under the Bowland Hills. Heading towards Little Town Dairy where I could have parked at the start, but no I was faced with another steep climb back onto the fell. I reckon I had climbed over 1000ft in the 7 miles which took me 4 hours including all those stops.
Wheatley Farm, 1774.
One has to spend one’s money on something. 57 has gone shopping.
Parlick and Fairsnape.
There was one more encounter at Sharples House. The farmer there had previously talked of having the largest cheese press in Lancashire, I believed him. In the past many farms in the area made their own cheese, tasty Lancashire. Today he seemed in a good mood, so I enquired further, and he took me to see the stone, it was indeed large and must have weighed a ton. He explained that the house was from the late 17th century. A former occupant, a Peter Walken (1684-1769) had been a nonconformist minister as well as a farmer. Uniquely he kept a series of diaries, most have been lost but two from 1733-34 have been found and published by a researcher from Preston museum. The present farmer was contacted and was able to see the journals but described them as boring, though they must have given an insight into farming life in the first half of the 18th century. He also told me of a mystery from the last century when two thieves broke into the house killing the farmer, but the daughter perhaps escaped hiding in an adjacent barn. One wonders how much local history has been lost.
There is another mystery just along the lane at Birks Farm – what is this structure in the wall built for? I should have asked the last farmer, next time.
Up the steep lane, over the last stile and I finish this splendid walk back at my car overlooking Longridge.
Longridge Fell looking across the green Chipping Vale towards the Trough of Bowland.
At the risk of raising the blood pressure of my, environmentally sensitive, readers – read on.
Following on from my brush with Covid I have not kept up with the walks featured in the Lancashire Cicerone Guide book. I hope to resume them shortly. Today I needed a gentle leg stretcher – Longridge Fell always has something to offer. I’ve not done a ‘litter pick’ up there for several weeks so that became the object of the morning’s stroll.
Parking up I was immediately confronted with discarded pizza boxes and drink bottles , also strangely two plastic motor oil containers. There is a litter bin 10 metres away, though admittedly it is usually full to overflowing. Not a good start to the day.
I set off on my walk intending to clear this mess up when I return, it won’t all go in my bag. Longridge Fell was bone dry making for easy walking though the threats of moorland fires must be high. I noticed the bilberries were very small perhaps a reflection of our lack of rainfall this June and July. The other thing that struck me was that the heather was already blooming – I seem to have missed some seasons this year.
A sad finding on the ridge was a recently dead Kestrel. I could see no signs of it being shot, but I did wonder afterwards about possible poisoning. Should I have picked it up and sent to the RSPB or police for toxicology tests?
Up to the trig point and back in a circle I half filled my bag with the usual doggy poo bags, drinks cartons and food wrappers. The short stretch on the road at the end provided an equal amount of rubbish dumped out of passing cars. All I had to do was pick up the rest of that rubbish in the car park.
This is a local beauty spot with a fine view of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills so there are always cars parked here. In lock-down it was a free for all with all the verges taken over, things are back to normal now. Today I noticed two artists busy painting the scene. I wandered over to have a chat and admire their work. One was using watercolours and the other acrylic, they both complained about the high temperature affecting their paints. What a talent to be able to capture that view with a few brushstrokes. I wish I had asked them to email me a copy of their finished paintings. That reminds me, I have on my study wall a watercolour of the very same scene done for me by a Mr. A Long, an artist who lived in Longridge 40 odd years ago.
Mr Long’s painting.
What a contrast from two gents fully appreciating their environment to the louts who drive up here with their takeaways and don’t take them away.
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.