Mark Sutcliffe’s Chapter 4. Bowland Knotts and Cross of Greet.
Driving the lanes to Slaidburn once more and this time taking the continuation towards the Tatham Fells to park at the Cross of Greet Bridge, deep in Bowland. The last time I started a walk from here along the River Hodder, November 2020, the whole area was waterlogged and virtually impassable. I am hoping for better conditions today after a few dry days. It’s a Bank Holiday weekend, yet I’m the only car parked up by the river.
I skip across the marshy area and have no problem fording the stream this time. The walk-up to the isolated barn goes well. A barn owl is disturbed as I peep inside, it flies off, and the chicks go quiet. I don’t hang about. Outside was a rusting lime spreader manufactured locally in Clitheroe ? Vintage 1960.
The way onto Pike Side is rather vague, and I end up following sheep tracks and even sheep. I realise that somewhere I have gone wrong arriving at an old lime kiln next to the wall, SD 725591. There are shake holes marked on the map, so there must be underlying limestone near about. With a bit of rough ground I regain the route by the gate, SD 723593. There are the ruins of an old barn here, and I follow the straight access track all the way to the road at Bowland Knotts, although at times it disappears underwater.
There are craggy outcrops either side of the road and some are suitable for bouldering. I find a seat not far off the road for lunch with Ingleborough in full view.
Tracks follow the wall westwards towards a trig point, 430 m,the highest point of the Bowland Knotts also recorded as Crutchenber Fell, a ladder stile crosses to it. This is a rough tramp, but there are good, if hazy, vistas into Yorkshire, Stocks Reservoir, Pendle and the Bowland Hills.
I stay on the south side of the wall for the undulating mile to the next feature, Cold Stone Crag. There is a path of sorts. There is climbing on this remote crag, but I doubt if many come this far, you might as well boulder back at the road. On one occasion I made the boggy walk in to photograph the crag for a new guidebook, only to arrive after the sun had moved round. The process was repeated the next day at an earlier hour. From up here the whole of the Pendleside panorama is visible.
Forever onwards alongside the wall and a gentle climb up to a height of 486 m, no cairn denotes the ‘summit’. The miles are long up here. An undecipherable boundary stone is encountered. The maps vary on the name of the hill – Great Harlow, Hailshowers Fell, Raven Castle or perhaps Catlow Fell.
A little farther and a fence line leads me down to the road at the Cross of Greet. By the cattle grid is a large stone with a shallow square hole in the top. It stands at the Lune/Ribble watershed. formally the Lancs/Yorks border and may have had in the past a stone cross inserted into it. Or was it a plague stone? nobody knows. I think it’s more likely to have been a cross at an important passage through these remote hills.
I chat to some cyclists riding the classic round from Slaidburn. Up to the Cross of Greet, over Tatham Fell past the Great Stone, maybe a brew at Bentham or Clapham and then back over Bowland Knotts, through Gisburn Forest to Slaidburn. I did it once with my mate Tone, never to be forgotten.
“Down the road for 800 m then follow one of the faint paths down to the stream” Well I’m not sure about the 800 m, and I don’t find any obvious paths. It will be even worse once the all encompassing bracken has grown. But I do find myself down at the Hodder, not the magnificent river it will later become, and hop over to the other side.
A slight climb and I am on the brink of an abandoned quarry. Stone from here was transported by rail to build the dam of Stocks Reservoir as the valley was slowly flooded in the 1930s for the Fylde Waterboard. Only the church was saved, stone by stone and rebuilt on higher ground. There is lots of archive material online. The quarry is atmospheric particularly with the surviving, but rusting dinosaur of a steam crane.
At the edge of the quarry is the base of the Far Costy Clough, a worthwhile scramble up onto White Fell I’m lead to believe. Yet another one to add to my list. Another day.
I’m content to just to follow the old rails out of the quarry back to the Cross of Greet Bridge. Another longish day out in Bowland.