Tag Archives: coronavirus

IS THERE LIFE ON MARS?

Today or was it yesterday, accompanied by the appropriate fanfares, a space mission has been launched from Cape Canaveral due to reach Mars in February 2021. Onboard is the Perseverance Rover.

According to NASA, the Perseverance Rover has four objectives supporting the program’s science goals:

Looking for Habitability: Identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life
Seeking Biosignatures: Seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time
Caching Samples: Collect core rock and “soil” samples and store them on the Martian surface
Preparing for Humans: Test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere

That all sounds wonderful and I’m the first to support scientific research to help mankind into the next century and beyond. None of us knows where these experiments may lead.

However, we may not get the results until halfway through the present century. The cost is billions.

So let us not lose sight of the fact we are in the middle of a viral pandemic which may yet destroy our civilisation. Earth is, again let’s not forget, experiencing global climate changes threatening to destroy our civilisation. Where is the resolve and expediency to solve those two problems? Politically we have failed to heed the medical evidence for the former and internationally we have all but given up, despite the diminutive Greta Thunberg, on the latter. Depressing thoughts I know.

So today’s news of the Mars probe doesn’t fill me with joy as it should. I’m not certain how the possible advances in science in 40 to 50 years will bring us back from the present catastrophe of our own making.

*

 

This morning a hedgehog wandered across my lawn, the first I’ve seen this year. Apparently, they are in serious decline. If we can’t protect this wonderful creature what is the point of going to Mars. 

So I’d like to re-phrase that question.  Is there life on earth?

*

And obliviously I can’t resist the girl with mousy hair but maybe we will never know.

STOCKS RESERVOIR – THE OTHER WAY ROUND.

Last week my planned trip to Stocks was aborted by a last-minute decision to walk up Croasdale. I was back today though and parked at a remote spot on the hill road from Slaidburn to Bentham just short of the Cross of Greet bridge over the River Hodder, yes I renew my acquaintance with this lovely river. The Hodder Valley up here was dammed in the 1920s to create Stocks Reservoir.  For an informative history, http://www.dalehead.org/ is worth consulting.

As is usual with my walks at the present I don’t set off till lunchtime when the weather is hopefully on the mend. Where I park, avoiding the busy honeypots, gives me easy access to the waymarked circular walk around the Reservoir. Incidentally, my last visit here with Sir Hugh and JD was last July almost to the day. That was a bright sunny day whereas today was dull and windy and I decided to walk anticlockwise for a change.

Immediately I was inserted into a procession of walkers who were already halfway round. It’s a busy Sunday. Behind me, a commotion erupted as a couple with a dog off the lead, despite all the notices, were frantically calling its name, Max, as it charged off after the sheep. They charged off after the dog and all ended up in a heap on the hillside, I had no sympathy and walked on.

The route I was walking was originally a rail track from a quarry providing stone for the dam. It took me past the fishermen’s cafe and centre, where I couldn’t resist a coffee, served with all the Covid precautions we are having to get used to.

Onwards past the stately mansion built by the waterboard.

From the dam I watched fishermen stood in the water or more sensibly sat in a boat, not a fish was landed.

After that were open meadows with views up the water. I would think it was fifty-fifty as to the number of walkers going my way and those completing the circuit clockwise. I’ve often debated on how we choose the way around a circular walk – prevailing weather conditions, the best views, ease of ascents, the guidebook description etc. I wonder if left-handers have a different mindset? Whatever my circuit today gave different aspects to previous visits.

At the road, I met all the mountain bikers spilling out of Gisburn Forest and all the cars parked in and out of the car park. The lockdown has highlighted selfish and illegal parking.

Once past the parking I had the trail to myself once again giving me time to nibble away at the abundant wild raspberries. United Utilities have done an excellent job of keeping us walkers off the road on a permissive path that has a good feel as it winds through the bushes.

Occasional walls remind one of the previous village that occupied this valley. I popped into one of the bird hides along here but not much was happening, cormorants were drying their wings on a promontory on the far side of the water and a kestrel was hunting closer by.

A steady pull up a lane brought me to the site of New House farm of which there is only a barn still standing, the web site I mentioned has photos of the old farms. Great views back down from up here over Stocks with Pendle in the distance.

I’m almost full circle but first, have to drop down to cross the footbridge over the River Hodder and climb up on a flagged path past more ruins to where I am parked.

Here I bizarrely meet a young lady with a baby in a pram and a couple of working dogs. , “He was teething so I’ve come out to settle him”,   She lives just up the lane in one of the most remote farmhouses in Lancashire, it was Yorkshire once. She bemoans the fact that the area is becoming more accessible and well known. there are even boy racers on the road.

*****

 

 

 

 

THE HODDER FROM BOTH SIDES.

                                                                       LOWER HODDER BRIDGE.

Back in time, the River Hodder was a boundary between Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire in these parts. The Upper and Lower Hodder bridges are inscribed accordingly and tonight I tread both sides.

My evening stroll starts from the Higher Hodder Bridge and follows the woods on the south side of the river. To be honest you don’t get good views of the river when the trees are in full leaf. I do however spot a fly fisherman wading in on the opposite side.

My path goes up and down to eventually arrive at the Stonyhurst Park Cross and on down to another cross which has been decapitated. Here a side stream is crossed by an ornate bridge and down below on the river banks are the remains of bathing huts used by pupils of Stonyhurst and the preparatory Hodder Place in past times. The river here has several natural weirs creating suitable bathing pools. It looked tempting today but I think a special trip is called for with support from like-minded friends.

 

Bathing Huts, Early C20.

There is a steep little climb away from the river towards Hodder Place [now residential apartments] but I didn’t think it was that steep…

A mile of easy walking alongside the Hodder brings one to the Lower Hodder Bridge and of course its historic companion ‘Cromwell’s Bridge’.  He is said to have marched his army over on the way to Stonyhurst and on to fight the Battle of Preston in 1648.  I do have to admire its shapely three arches. Across the bridge, a stile leads me into fields on what would have been the Yorkshire side. You climb high above the river which is not visible at this time of year through the trees. All is peaceful. This is all lovely walking country, green fields, grazing sheep and Lancashire hills. A contrast to the woods I’d walked through on the other side. The medieval Mitton Church could be seen across the way, that’s where I walked a couple of weeks ago by the River Ribble. The rivers meet less than a mile away.

A short stretch of road and I’m back in fields heading down to the Hodder again under Kemple End the eastern limit of Longridge Fell. The Higher Hodder bridge brings me back to my start point – I could almost walk it again.

The Hodder upstream.

                                                            HIGHER HODDER BRIDGE.

*****

COVID FREE CROASDALE – PURE NOSTALGIA.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be”  Douglas Adams.

After a late breakfast Sunday, I set off to Slaidburn for a gentle walk around Stocks Reservoir. I was enjoying the drive over with the roof down listening to the West Indians scoring too freely in the Test match. As I came over the rise on the road up from Cow Ark there in front of me were the Three Peaks of Yorkshire, a view I always thrill to. Out of the corner of my eye were the Bowland Fells, vying for attention. I was aware of the half-hidden valley of Croasdale and realised I hadn’t visited it for a year or so. A quick change of objective and I found myself parked up in that little pull off at the very top of Woodhouse Lane. I pondered on how many times I’ve parked there over the years especially in the early years of this century when we were developing the bouldering potential of the Bull Stones higher up the valley. We would race up the track to climb all-day and then most nights come down in the dark, we knew every twist of the route.

Of course, we were not the first to come this way. The Romans forged a road over the fells, probably adopting ancient ways, linking Ribchester with Carlisle. Some of the culverts on this The Hornby Road date back to the Romans. Later there was trade between the Monasteries of Yorkshire and the coast, wool one way and salt the other, hence the other name for this route, Salter Fell Track. A metal marker on the track commemorates the 400th year anniversary of the Lancashire Witches being dragged this way to their trial and execution in Lancaster.

It was a Lancashire Witches Walk waymark on the fell gate that reminded me of probably my last visit here whilst undertaking that excellent way. At the time a group of workmen were repairing a section of road just past the bridge. A gully was undermining the road and an expensive shoring up exercise was underway. That has been completed and the repairs extended up what was a very rough section of road by resurfacing with limestone chippings which look out of place in this gritstone environment. No doubt this has all been done using taxpayers funds and yet the only people to benefit from it are the shooting fraternity who have a lodge further up the track.

Few people walk up this valley and today the only people I see are motorcyclists who are able to travel right through from Slaidburn to Hornby a classic moorland journey. The man himself, A Wainwright described it as the best moorland walk in England although I’m not sure what he would have had to say regarding the motorcycles.

My more modest aim today is just to reach the gate near the summit and then traverse back along the hillside visiting the Bull Stones. I’ve brought my binoculars along as this area used to be a good place to see Hen Harriers, but alas no more due to persecution from ‘hands unknown’.  Many of you will know the story of Bowland Beth. So I don’t see harriers but I do spot a pair of kestrels, some stonechats and more excitedly two ring ouzels.

I sit under a favourite boulder and eat some lunch whilst gazing down the valley with Pendle in the far distance, there is not a soul in sight. The only sounds are the occasional bleating of sheep and the cries of seagulls which come inland here.

I continue along the edge of the rocks, past the spring of sparkling water where I know I can refresh myself even in the middle of summer. Around the corner, the continuation of the rocks is at a higher level and I make my way slowly up to them. I’m aiming for one particular group where there is a 50-degree slabby rock which we called ‘super slab’ on our first visit, I’m inclined to overdramatize but it is super. Perfect clean steep rock, rippled slightly with the odd pebble for a finger hold. 

Somebody produced a video featuring this slab so you can see what I’m going on about –

After lovingly fingering the start of the climb, I don’t have my rock shoes with me, I make my way to the end of the rocks, the Calf Stones.

Down below is that massive stone trough carved from an in-situ boulder. Time for another sit and contemplative look down the valley towards Pendle. I have time to examine the minutiae of the lichen growing into the gritstone.   I then head down to pick up a hidden sheep trod in the bracken that I know will take me across the rough hillside to join an estate track down to the ford. It had been at the back of my mind all afternoon as to whether I would be able to safely cross the stream here. One winter it was impossible and we had to make quite a detour to find a way across. Today, despite the recent rainfall and the stream flowing quickly, I seemed to just hop across.

Just follow the path.

Back on the main track, I had time to reminisce on times staying in the barn visible down below. It has been overhauled by United Utilities partly to preserve the unique sheepfolds that surround it.  Once with my eldest grandson, we had two nights there and were treated to hen harrier flypasts both evenings as we sat by a campfire eating baked beans and sausages, magic.

From up here, I could see in the distance a small section of Stocks reservoir where I could well have been. Another time.

*****

CHIPPING HIGH LANES.

“You deserve a holiday!”  said the email from booking.com.

I’m being bombarded with adverts from holiday organisations desperate for me to spend money with them and fly off in the middle of this pandemic. I’m not fooled by Boris’s assurances of  “air bridges” to avoid quarantine, where is the medical evidence for that? And what may change whilst you are away? The only good outcome of his policy is that the crowds who inundated our beaches will be jumping on planes to take them to the ‘Costas’. They will find the Spanish police know how to administer crowd control with hefty fines and prison sentences.

Anyhow, would you want to sit on the beach with a mask on and then queue for an hour or so for your Sangria?

Homegrown firms [eg Booking.com Airbnb Tripadvisor] are also trying to tempt me away in Britain. I know hotels and B&B’s are in a desperate state but can you imagine how the experience of an otherwise pleasant country house hotel would be at present.

At least some of these firms are advising booking with a cancellation option but even that might not be straight forward, read the small print. Here is Booking.com’s special notice –  For bookings made from 6 April 2020, you should take into account the risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and associated government measures. If you don’t book a flexible rate, you may not be entitled to a refund. We advise you to closely follow any travel advice from your local government and health organisations, and we recommend booking a flexible rate with free cancellation, in case your travel plans need to change.

You’ve guessed it I won’t be going anywhere just yet. Probably not this year if the deadly virus is still about. Let’s wait and see, I’ve successfully shielded for nearly 4 months now so I’m sure I can continue. In answer to booking.com’s suggestion that “I need a holiday” – no I don’t, I’ve had one for the length of lockdown so far.

Maybe though I need a change of scenery. but they sensibly won’t let me into Scotland or Wales just yet. The next best thing this afternoon as the sun comes out is to drive 5 miles to Chipping, olde worlde and mentioned in the Domesday Book. I have a walking route planned around the quiet country lanes. I park near the Church of St. Bartholomew opposite The Sun Inn. This is where my story starts

Lizzie was a maid living in the Sun, in the year 1835. She met up with a local lad who claimed the deepest love for her and proposed to her, she gladly accepted, However, two days before the wedding, James told Lizzie he had fallen in love with her friend Elsie and called off their wedding day. He now planned to marry Elsie in the church opposite.

On the day of the wedding  Lizzie went up to the pub attic overlooking the churchyard, she wrote a suicide note, placed a rope around her neck, and died. The note in her fist read “I want to be buried at the entrance to the church so my lover and my best friend will always have to walk past my grave every time they go to church.”

Her grave is situated near the old entrance – 

But the story doesn’t end there. For almost 200 years the ghost of Lizzie has haunted the Sun Inn and the churchyard opposite. Just ask anyone in the village. There is an old yew tree near her grave which has one branch supported by an iron tripod.

Sorry, I became rather distracted there.

My walk leaves the village up the lane towards former water mills which helped Chipping thrive in the early industrial years. None is working now, Kirk Mill has been preserved but is looking rather forlorn. Originally a corn mill, then a cotton mill it ended its life as part of the Berry Chair Works. Its large crane was used to unload timber from the lorries. The cottages surrounding it were still used by workers when I moved into the area in the ’70s. It eventually closed its doors in 2010. Above the main building is the large mill lodge famous nowadays for its ducks.

The narrow lane continues steeply up the hillside passing the site of Tweedy’s Mill, a former foundry and previously a cotton mill. Now there is housing and Proctor’s Cheeses. At one time there were half a dozen water mills on this section of Chipping Brook.

Brief glimpses of the fells appear through the trees. Above Wolfen Mill, an old bobbin mill, I take the lane into the fells. I chase butterflies up the hill and buy some free-range eggs at the stall on Saddle Side farm track.

Red Admiral.

Today I’m not going further into the fells so I turn down a newly tarmacked route to Windy Hills Farm where there is a recent barn conversion, presumably they have paid for the road improvement. At the moment it looks out of place up here but it provides a warm bed for the lambs. Onwards on the familiar track to the extensive sheep rearing Laund Farm with views opening up to Waddington Fell, Pendle Hill and Longridge Fell.  Laund was the ancient word for an open space for deer and I now walk down through it, admiring the mature trees and lush greenery, part of the Leagram Estate. A perfect evening.

Back in Chipping, I walk up to the Sun Inn where the story started.


*****

 

 

 

MY LIMESTONE NATURE RESERVE.

Not far away in Clitheroe are several nature reserves based on old limestone quarries. I have been jealous recently of the walks and discoveries of a fellow blogger in those reserves, especially the sight of a Bee Orchid!

Normally at this time of year I’m out in France at a friend’s house in the Lot area, The garden there and the surrounding countryside have provided me with lots of different orchids and other flora as well as interesting birdlife. Not to be this year.

I’ve not been driving far in lockdown and I keep on exploring places local to Longridge. Just down the road from me limestone comes to the surface in the Vale of Chipping and Whitewell area. Quite possibly the same series as over at Clitheroe when the whole area was under the sea, I’m no geologist. This set me thinking, plenty of time for that, why don’t I investigate further and see what I can discover. Of course, the weather has taken a turn for the worse but I manage a short initial visit to a nearby limestone quarry.

I have a little book Limekilns and Limeburning Around the Valleys of Hodder and Loud [a snazzy title]

Many farms burnt limestone, the lime being used to improve the land and in building mortar. So small limestone outcrops and kilns are commonplace. Later commercial activity developed [18 -19th century] and the book describes this at Arbour Quarry in Thornley. An early photograph shows a limekiln as a substantial structure within the quarry. Work probably stopped in the early 1900s.

I have vague memories of wandering through this quarry 30-40 years ago and there was a  limekiln in evidence. The book suggests there were two. Time to have another look.

The quarry is fenced off but a public footpath passes close by. I find a gate and walk in, a couple of roe deer disappear into the distance [a good start]. The quarry floor is a well-grassed over and there are mounds all around. At one end is a large pond with resident ducks. So where do I start? I can not see any obvious limekiln so I decide to wander about and look at the vegetation. Everywhere is very reedy and boggy, not like a limestone quarry at all. There are buttercups, hawkweeds, ragged robins and vetch in profusion and then I start to notice the orchids on the drier areas.

There are the, now obvious to me, Common Spotted Orchids but there are also some paler flowered ones with less distinctive markings. Take a picture and try and identify later. Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were everywhere.

Nothing else dramatic was obvious, my feet were getting wet, black clouds were zooming in – time to go. I had found some orchids but was no wiser as to the Limekilns. I need to do some research on the latter and return tomorrow.

Back home I look at some old OS maps –The limekiln appears to be in the NW corner of the quarry near the entrance. So this afternoon I  return to seek it out. I enter the quarry as before but now as I pass between mounds I look back up to the right and there is masonry. I scramble up and find a few rows of dressed stones which must have formed the top of the kiln as seen in the old picture. The top opening has been filled in.  I cannot find the apex stone depicted in the book, a lot of the stones will have been removed and used elsewhere. There are some remnants of a paved track going up the banking. What a shame this magnificent kiln wasn’t preserved.

I attempt to encircle the quarry looking for the kiln on the far side but end up in some very boggy ground and every mound is grassed over. Anyhow, I’m pleased to have found the main kiln.

I will come back on a dry, sunny day when it is less windy and the butterflies are on the wing. You never know I might find some other species of orchids.

 

CARR SIDE CATCHUP.

My last post looking at Carr Side Fishing Lakes left an unanswered question which some of you were concerned about. Does the public footpath continue past the lakes?

True to my word I was back there today to find out. Nobody had used the footpath down the field and with all the rain the little beck was overflowing, I managed to get my feet wet trying to jump it. I pushed through the gate as before and this time with jeans on battled through the nettles with indifference. The water’s edge seemed devoid of birds, perhaps they had heard me coming.

The map shows the FP going straight through the lakes, something I wasn’t prepared to do. So I followed the fishermen’s trail to the right past their little wooden hut. There was nobody about. I now came across a couple of green painted waymarks which I had missed before so I knew I was probably OK. Some rough ground was traversed above the first lake before dropping onto the trail around the second lake. Another waymark guided me to the exit gate through the boundary fence and out of the private property.

I was now in a small paddock which led to a conspicuous stile, another swollen stream was difficult to cross but then I could complete a short circular walk with no trouble. I passed the two Carr Side Farms and walked back along the road.

So I have to report there is no obstruction to the FP and in fact it is well waymarked and easy to follow. All the minor difficulties are in the adjoining fields where I ended up with wet feet!

Full marks to Carr Side Fishing Lakes.

 

Since I was last out the frothy heads of Meadowsweet seems to have come into bloom and there fragrance was noticeable in the hedgerows. I can still smell it now.

WORTH A LOOK – Carr Side Lakes.

When I was up on Longridge Fell the other day I looked down onto the farms and fields of Thornley in the Vale of Chipping. Near Thornley Hall, two lakes in wooded surroundings took my notice and I identified them on the map for further exploration. There seemed to be a public footpath heading to them, in fact going right through them. I’ll call them Carr Side Lakes.

By afternoon today, most of the thundery weather had passed and the sun came out. I debated whether to cycle along but feared a soaking so I drove there and parked in a handy layby. A footpath sign pointed into the field but the stile looked unused. The ponds couldn’t be seen from the road as there was a good tree cover but the backdrop of the Bowland Fells was impressive.   I wandered down, there was no sign of a path whereas most paths have been well walked during the lockdown. I was regretting wearing zip-off shorts when I had to push through a patch of nettles and brambles to reach a gate in a wire fence. There seemed to be a continuous Stalag type fence, was it electrified, encircling the ponds. The gate wasn’t locked but was difficult to open because of lack of use and a heavy counterweight. I looked around for any gun towers and pushed through.

More nettles followed before I emerged onto a decent track encircling the first lake. There was no clue as to where the public footpath went. Waterbirds, coots and waterhens, were swimming away with some loud alarm calls. Dark shapes were swimming just under the surface, I wondered if they were otters. I regretted forgetting my binoculars along with my zip-off trouser legs sat on the kitchen table at home.

On the far side, I could see a fisherman so I strolled around to ask him about the access situation, I definitely felt that I was in the wrong place. He turned out to be friendly and chatty. His set up consisted of a tent with brew facilities, comfy chair and about five rods. He had been here since 4.30 this morning. The ‘otter shapes’ I’d seen were in fact giant carp which he had been trying to catch all day. Last week he had caught a 24lb carp and he proudly showed me the picture on his phone. The fence enclosure was to keep out fish predators as well as the public. He had no idea about the public footpath but suggested I could walk on to the second lake and have a look. I could find no obvious way out although I suspect there should be one as I was able to get in in the first place.

I spent some time watching Canada Geese with their young, I counter 12, floating about the lake. By my feet I find a lonely orchid, the leaves had spots so I think it is a Common Spotted Orchid.Looking back south there above was Longridge Fell from where I’d first spotted these lakes. I retraced my steps and escaped but determined to return not just with binoculars but wearing trousers so I can explore further this delightful place.

It is certainly worth another look.

…IT’S EXERCISE AFTER ALL.

When I pulled my curtains open this morning at about 7am people were already taking their daily exercise. They were the wise ones as the forecast was for the hottest day of the year by this afternoon. I considered, indeed almost succumbed to a quick breakfast and away. But no my daily sloth had me back in bed with the first coffee of the morning. I seem to be getting through vast amounts of ground coffee, there is another delivery expected tomorrow morning.

A second coffee followed as I sorted through my emails etc. A friend living in France has been in severe lockdown but now because of their diligence is allowed out to live more or less normally. He sent me a recent picture of his 3-month scruffy beard.

My enthusiasm for exercise fluctuates with the day, At the weekend I did a couple of decent walks. Yesterday I could not even summon the effort to drive across to East Lancs to climb with my friends – I’m still not convinced about keeping to 2m social isolation on such escapades.

Today would have been lovely up on Parlick and Fairsnape but I haven’t yet got my head around the risk factors of high moorland walking. Last week a group of people I know, local fell runners, had a simple run up Beacon Fell which ended up with a helicopter rescue of one of them. I know I’m becoming paranoid. All the excitement and hullabaloo of opening shops and pubs passes me by. Note that the medical establishment, which the politicians are casting aside, have issued warnings of progressing out of lockdown too rapidly. So I’ll be keeping to my relative shielding and the 2 metres distancing for a few more weeks until I can see we may have turned a corner.

So where do I go today?

Yes, you have guessed it – Longridge Fell. I opt for a simple circuit around the lanes up and down from Longridge onto the western half of the fell.

My enthusiasm increases with every few hundred feet of climbing. I take a keen interest in the flora on the verges. There is virtually no traffic to disturb me. I watch butterflies flitting over the flowers and marvel at the dedication some photographers must have to produce even the simplest of shots. See https://beatingthebounds.wordpress.com/ for an idea of what can be achieved locally.

At the point where the road went left, I decided to carry on and pick up tracks leading to the trig point. By now I was walking freely and could have continued for miles to the east with no way of getting home. As I climbed higher the heather which a week ago was nondescript was beginning to flower. I suspect this summer with all the moisture and now the heat we should have a good display on the fells. There is nothing finer than a purple hillside. Oh and I noticed a few small bilberries beginning to appear – get out the pie-dish.

Ir was only when I was on the summit ridge that I met anybody. A man with two young girls who had been collecting sheep’s wool, the oldest, about 5, suggested her mother could make a sheep out of it which seemed perfectly reasonable. A young man looking for a different way off the fell, no he didn’t have a map. I sent him on his way with precise directions but I had doubts as to his navigational skills. A young couple, new to the area, taking selfies on the edge of the escarpment with Chipping Vale below and the Bowland Fells in the background.

Reaching the car park I was admiring a modern smart fourth-generation Mazda MX 5, [I have a 15-year-old Second Generation convertible.] It turned out to belong to the young couple so we had an extended conversation on a wide variety of topics before they sped off down to Chipping with the wind in their hair.

I was now on my homeward stretch down past the golf course with hazy Longridge ahead. I reached the little reservoir at the top of Longridge where I was on the lookout for grebes which often nest here. Some youngsters had climbed over the wall and were settling into a picnic above the water’s edge, all strictly private water board land. I jokingly admonished them for trespassing and said they didn’t want to be caught there when the water bailiff came around. I’d only walked about 50 yards when round the corner came the Waterboard van which stopped and gave a severe telling off to the youths who slinked away looking rather crestfallen.

By the time I reached home, it was far too hot to contemplate gardening.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be away with the larks.

*****

 

 

 

BEACON FELL BY THE BACK DOOR.

I knew Beacon Fell car parks would be full on a Saturday. I knew Brock Bottoms car parks would also be full. The Covid-19 crisis is bringing everybody out into the countryside, no doubt the coast as well. Shouldn’t we be encouraged by all these people exercising in the countryside? Well no – the amount of litter I saw today and the inconsiderate and illegal parking problems were distressing and that was on a walk when I tried to avoid the hot spots. I’m becoming more and more disillusioned with the British public the longer this lockdown carries on. Selfish and ignorant people are certainly spoiling it for the rest of us. Rant over – almost.

Having said all that I’ve just enjoyed a lovely evening’s walk without meeting hardly a soul, although I came close.

For a change of scenery, I wanted to visit Beacon Fell. I often walk there and back from home on field paths in a round of 12 miles but today I only had a few hours to spare late in the day. Consulting the map I reckoned I could walk along the Brock River and climb up to the fell without encountering the crowds.

Having parked my car on a quiet lane about 5 miles drive from home I set off at 4pm. The lane dropped me down to the River Brock near the popular car park. There were cars parked all over on double yellow lines as an overflow from the official carpark. The noise from the throngs of people by the river was all-pervading. Picnics, barbecues and drinking was the name of the game, all crammed together on the riverside. I’ve never understood the idea of bringing all your urban trappings into the countryside, but maybe they don’t have gardens or parks at home.

My plan was to walk upstream on little paths by the river and in fields, I never met another person – what a contrast. The Brock was fairly low after the dry weather we have had. I saw a couple of Dippers but otherwise all the birds were anonymous, singing hidden in the trees. The path is good with duckboards over the boggy areas. A solitary cottage is passed well isolated from the virus. Onwards through woods just above the river. An old ford in the Brock is reached at the bottom of Snape Rake Lane, there is a footbridge alongside.  I can remember driving down here once many years ago,  fording the river awkwardly in my landrover to drive up the other side only to find the gate at the top locked. A quick turn around and retreat had me coming back through the difficult ford rather red-faced.  My reckless years. Today I was content to sit and look at the peaceful scene.

Climbing away from the river up the steep lane brought me into the woods high above the river.

I then followed quiet lanes up the northern side of Beacon Fell with improving views of the Bleasdale Hills. In the hedgerows tall Foxgloves, white Bramble flowers and wild Dog Roses were in profusion.

I knew a forest break that cut back right up the slopes of Beacon Fell. After the natural woods alongside the Brock, this appeared sterile and eerily silent.

At the top was the friendly old crocodile carving studded with coins.

I was soon at the trig point without meeting anybody.

Although on the way down towards the car park and cafe people were wandering about. it was here that I started coming across blatant littering less than 100m from bins. Obviously, the culprits expect someone else to come along later and clear it all up. The cafe and toilets remain closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

My way off the fell was through the Memorial Forest where you can purchase a plot and a tree as your fitting memory. Another memorial was a field of native trees donated by a former Countryside Ranger, a simple inscribed stone commemorated the gift.

Buzzards were flying above on the evening thermals.

A previously coppiced beech wood was traversed out onto the lane where my car was parked.

Well satisfied with that circuit,

*****

 

BLEASDALE BELONGS TO ME.

Do you remember those summer evenings after a day in the hills?  The day’s heat floating in the air. The stillness, no wind except for perhaps a gentle breeze wafting some floral scents from below.  The low light is diffused, the summits hazy. Maybe the odd midge or two disturbing your sun flushed face and arms. The stove is purring with the prospect of soup. All is well.

Last night if I closed my eyes I was there.

I was actually in Bleasdale enjoying a stroll around the estate roads. This area is much quieter than Longridge Fell and as I walked through I felt I was the only person on the planet.  It was a perfect evening and I savoured the warm sunshine which brought out those memories of summers past.

It is ironic that this has probably been one of the best few months for backpacking in many years and here we are in lockdown. Still, if I can have Bleasdale to myself  I’m not complaining.

SOMETIMES.

I found this slate poem tonight, the latest one I’ve come across on Longridge Fell during this Covid pandemic.

Sometimes – Sheenagh Pugh.

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

 

I was at the far end of the fell, once more seeking solitude. Dark clouds were gathering and I set off up a sidetrack more in hope than optimism. I was not very optimistic about staying dry but I hoped I would.  One can be pessimistic but hopeful at the same time. The above poem, by Sheenagh Pugh, expresses similar ideas I think.

It was only a short walk to clear my head, there were some large drops of rain for a short time but I was back at the car before the forecast storm.  A triumph of hope over optimism.

*****

The slow progress out of this pandemic is of concern to me especially as lockdown is being lifted quickly without good medical evidence. There are still a significant number of daily deaths and the magic R number is struggling to stay under 1.  Boris wants us all to go shopping next week, that shows where his priorities lie – certainly not with the vulnerable in our society.

My optimism for a successful outcome is dwindling – I will just have to hope from now on.

 

NOGGARTH 35 YEARS LATER.

While I’ve been isolated one of the tasks I started on was to go through some boxes of old photographs. I didn’t get far as I’m reluctant to throw things away, I’ll leave that to the next generation. One set of prints took my notice. Some large rock slabs with myself and one of my sons and friend clambering about.  Memories came back of somewhere at the back of Pendle Hill, sunny days, parking by a little cafe [ice creams] and walking down to some slabs on a hillside. I always meant to go back and explore as I felt there must have been scope for development but I never did.

1985

Good parenting!

I had heard that some friends had been doing exactly that, cleaning lines on the slabs, placing belays and writing up a mini-guide.

Thus I find myself back again after 35 years. Dave and Rod phoned to say they were meeting up, separate cars and all that, this afternoon. I felt a little apprehensive driving over on quite busy roads. Reports say that the standard of driving during lockdown has been poor with lots of speeding, I drive even more cautiously than normal. After nearly three months of virtual isolation with only a few recent short drives up Longridge Fell, I have visions of ending up in casualty and catching the Covid virus after all my efforts to avoid it. Parking by the cemetery is not a good omen. Bloody hell I’m almost in Yorkshire.

A few climbers are already on the slabs and we exchange greetings. Everybody seems to know everybody in this small world.

Compare with 1985.

Today top-roping for us is the safest option. Even so, I am not convinced that we were able to socially isolate the specified 2m and we were handling the same ends of rope when swapping over. My clinical standards are not the same as others.

Anyhow a half dozen climbs were completed on the “girls slab”. The nature of the rock means there are few positive holds but faith in friction as you place your feet on rugosities brings success. The angle of the rock is favourable. I suspect that this quarry supplied flagstones rather than building blocks. I also suspect my calves will be stiff tomorrow from all that padding up the slabs.

It was good to meet up with friends and exchange news. I still have nagging doubts about this activity during a pandemic. We will all have a lot of adjustments to deal with whilst hopefully coming out of lockdown smoothly. On the positive side, I don’t have to think about using public transport, going back to work, sending children back to school or getting my business going again. But It’s not over yet.

LONGRIDGE FELL – UP AND OVER.

Eddie Waring commentated in his thick Yorkshire accent on Rugby League games in the ’60s and ’70s, one of his utterings “it’s an up and under” became almost a catchphrase. Planning this evening’s walk I wanted to push myself a little to see if my breathing had improved. For about a month or so I became breathless with the slightest of exertions which was rather disturbing, a persistent cough did not fill me with confidence either. I had a feeling I was on the mend so I needed some uphill walking. I had Eddie’s phrase at the back of my mind when I decided on an up and over walk across Longridge Fell. I’ve survived about 1000ft of ascent without too much stopping so I consider it a success.

The start of the up was on the south side of the fell, the over took me down the north side which left me with another up and over to complete the evening. The evening turned out sunny and calm with clear views in all directions, perfect walking conditions.

Although I’m trying my best to isolate myself from humanity and the lurking virus a few chance encounters enlivened the walk.

A few hundred yards through the rapidly growing plantation brings one to a little beck, Brownslow Brook. This is a favourite place of mine where the water tumbles out of the trees under a couple of wooden bridges before disappearing once again to emerge at the road to head down to Hurst Green as Dean Brook. I crossed it several times on my last outing. I often brought my boys here for dam building practice and have continued the ritual with my grandchildren. Tonight a couple were throwing sticks into the water for their Spaniel to retrieve, they were trying to wash off the dirt he had gathered from falling into a peat bog earlier. All three of them seemed to be enjoying the game.

Steeper climbing followed passing my favourite Beech tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above the path winds upwards through recently felled land and someone has been at work creating a mountain bike track with curves and jumps incorporated, it looked great fun.

On cresting the ridge you enter thicker mature woodland where in the past I have enjoyed several nights wild camping. I was aiming for the path going off the fell when I heard thumping noises just below. I ventured into the trees to investigate and found three pleasant young lads creating a steep downhill MB track. They were hard at work with spades and rakes. What a contrast to the youths inundating and despoiling our other beauty spots on recent weekends. I wished them well and will check on their progress next time I’m passing.

I found my own less steep rake going down the north side of the fell. It was an utter delight with the Vale of Chipping spread out below and the Bowland Hills in the background. [Header photo] Easy walking took me past Rakefoot Farm and out onto the Chaigley Road. I only had to walk a couple of hundred yards before a footpath sign pointed the way for my next up and over. This path had not been walked very often and degenerated into an assault course through nettles and brambles. Just when I thought I’d overcome the worst it turned into more of a stream than a path. My attention wandered to the flora beneath my feet and I was impressed by some of the smallest flowers I’ve seen. Minute water forget-me-nots and an unidentified even tinier chickweed type flower.  Trying to photo them with my phone was another matter.

At last, I was back on the open fell and climbing a definite rake without undue breathlessness. Once again there were minute flowers beneath my feet, one of the Bedstraws. As I had had enough ascent I did not feel the need to divert the short distance to the trig point. I did have time for one last backward view of Chipping Vale Bathed in the evening light. I then crossed the ridge and headed back into the forest for the downhill bit. The forest seemed empty and I made good progress on familiar tracks.

That was until I was further down and I came across the aftermath of last week’s forest fire. I was uncertain as to its whereabouts until now. Fire breaks had been created to prevent the fire from spreading. What a valiant effort from the firefighters otherwise the whole of the forest could have been lost. I chatted to a local who was also investigating the scene, we are not sure that the cause has been identified yet.

MEN Media

*****

On the way home I came across another of those inspiring poems inscribed on a slate that someone has been leaving around the fell.

“This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.”

John O’Donohue.

 

At the end of the walk I felt I’d found my feet and the air was kind.

*****

PENDLE TONIGHT.

The Lancashire countryside looks so clean with Pendle in the background.

I’ve been out for a short walk this beautiful evening. Can’t reveal where. Whilst we are in lockdown is an ideal time to go trespassing to local places I’ve always been intrigued by.

but I’ve still not found what I’m looking for…

THE HIDDEN CROSS.

When I was out the other evening I discussed the Stonyhurst Crosses and mentioned I’d spotted another one nearby marked on the map.

The cross was not marked precisely and appeared to be in the middle of a plantation with no obvious access. Aerial views didn’t show it.   I could find no reference to it in Stonyhurst’s history.

As it is just a short ride up the hill and they have opened the roads after the plantation fires I went for a quick look this afternoon. I was able to hop over the wall near the water catchment plant on Brownslow Brook. Two more walls and I was in the plantation. There has been recent felling and replanting so the going was difficult. I made for the highest point and there amongst some mature trees was the cross. An old-looking base supporting a well carved more modern stone cross. There were no inscriptions.

Close by there was evidence of previous game bird breeding, enclosures and feeding stations, but no other sign of human passage. I fought my way through the plantation to make my escape. It is going to be difficult to incorporate this unnamed cross into my planned walk around the “Stonyhurst Crosses”

DISTRACTED IN THE WOODS.

                                                       The River Hodder from the Higher Bridge.

The roads at this end of  Longridge Fell were still closed as they damped down the forest fires so I drove to the far end and parked near Higher Hodder Bridge. My plan was a short evening walk up to Kemple End quarry for a bit of bouldering.

I always enjoy the path through the trees above the Hodder. The spring foliage on the trees cut out some of the river views. Normally I spot herons, kingfishers and dippers on this stretch but not tonight.  But I was enjoying the way so much that I ignored the intended path that would have taken me up the fell and I continued along the river.

A mother and her two children were engrossed in the river.

The path at one point climbs away from the river and I knew of the cross in the woods on this stretch, Stonyhurst Park Cross stands above the River Hodder close to the former preparatory school, Hodder Place [now apartments]. A new cross was fixed to the ancient base in 1910, and was blessed on 12 June 1910 by the Jesuit provincial, Father Sykes; the origin of the earlier monument is unknown.

[This set me thinking – I had passed the Pinfold Cross near Stockbridge yesterday and I knew of two more crosses possibly related to Stonyhurst. Saint Paulinus’ Cross near Kemple End and Cross Gills Farm Cross near the Ribble. There is some evidence that pupils of Stonyhurst would walk between the four crosses on Palm Sunday. That seemed a ready-made walk for me to follow. But looking at the map I found another unnamed cross in the woods near SD672398 and there is a cross of uncertain age in Hurst Green. Watch this space.]

Today I noticed a faint path leading up into the woods behind the cross which I followed to some steep old steps. I climbed up these higher into the trees where I found another little path heading onwards. I imagined I would be able to cut across directly to Kemple End but at the edge of the woods were barbed wire fences and ahead unknown fields with what looked like one of those glamping developments. I did have a good view of Pendle from up here above the trees before I retreated all the way back down to the cross.

I knew the accepted footpath out of the woods up lots of steps and into fields leading to Stonyhurst, this is part of the now popular Tolkien Trail.

So I found myself on the lane around the college. It was a beautiful sunny evening and I wandered on. I became a little lost again in the fields but found my way up to Kemple End, it had taken me longer than I thought to reach here. There were the usual good views, particularly to Whalley Viaduct prominent below the Nab and the Hameldon Hills in the background.

A short walk down the lane and  I was back in fields heading towards the river. Halfway down my phone rang and while I took the rather long call I found a nice grassy area in the sunshine to lie down on. Later a bit further on I was crossing the footbridge which replaced a stone clapper bridge and wanted to take a photo. I realised I’d lost my camera, probably while I’d been reclining. I  retraced my steps and then spent a good 15minutes combing the slope I’d been on before I spotted the camera.

 

The old clapper bridge.

I was soon back at Higher Hodder Bridge. I hadn’t really met anyone, perfect.

*****

 

LONGRIDGE FELL – THREE QUESTIONS ANSWERED.

Mr and Mrs Stonyhurst.

Another walk on the quiet side of the Longridge Fell.

As I write this there is a large fire blazing in a plantation somewhere up there possibly even on this route from the other day. I assure you I did not have any part in its genesis.

I  don’t have any questions on my mind as I stroll down the bridleway past Crowshaw House. The crowds have gone the other way up onto Longridge Fell on the forestry tracks so I have my paths to myself. I’m tempted to trespass and have a look at the hidden lake which is part of the Stonyhurst Estate, another time maybe. So on past buttresssed Greengore, an ancient shooting lodge which I’ve photographed many times. A little stile, which could easily be missed, on the left, leads to a faint path through the trees and down to cross Dean Brook by a footbridge. Up the other side, you come out into fields by Higher Deer House, another sign of the estate’s deer park from the past.

Stonyhurst College on the lower slopes of Longridge Fell has a long history first as a private estate of the Shireburn family and then as a Catholic College. The village of Hurst Green is an integral neighbour of the estate,

I follow the track out to the road and immediately come face to face with the Pinfold Cross with its ominous inscription – ‘WATCH FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY NOR HOUR.’

I’ve often stopped to read this but have not noticed the other inscription above  ‘OFT EVENINGS GLAD MAKE MORNINGS SAD’ and more importantly on the left ‘PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF JAMES WELLS’  and on the right ‘DIED FEB. 12TH, 1834′ This extra information allowed me to track down the origins of the cross – a memorial to a former servant at Stonyhurst College and fiddler, James Wells, who fell to his death in a quarry nearby. I never knew that so I have answered one of my outstanding questions already about Stonyhurst.

Down the lane before Stockbridge Cottages, properties of the college, I pick up a well-trodden path heading up the fell towards Kemple End quarries. This appears as a sunken track and I’ve heard possibly that it was a trackway used for bringing stone down from the quarries to Hurst Green for the construction of parts of Stonyhurst. Today the local farmer was out checking his fences and was keen to chat. So question two – what was the track for? Yes, he explained it was a sledge way pulled by horses from the quarry. The barn at the bottom which I had just passed was used for stabling the horses.

Another query I had was about the Almshouses in Hurst Green which were apparently built high on Longridge Fell and at some later date moved stone by stone and re-erected in the village. That was a known fact but I often wondered where they had been on the Fell originally. The farmer supplied his answer that they had been just above the road near Leeming quarry in an area known as the Blue Lagoon. That seems feasible.

Hurst Green Almshouses.

Original site.

The Blue Lagoon.

 

Once up at Kemple End I had a short drink’s break and contemplated which way to take back to my car, along the road or the slightly longer and higher forest tracks. Obviously, the latter was chosen. I was wandering slowly up the zigzags looking at the flora when a young man caught me up. Keeping to our regulation 2m social distancing we chatted for a while. He had set himself a challenge for his lockdown period, 50 hills within walking distance of Clitheroe. I enthused about his project and wished him well.

My favourite cottage at Kemple End.

A few more people were using these forest tracks but it was easy to keep clear of them, is this how paranoia starts? A friend came by on his mountain bike with his 3year old son riding high at the front, his wife followed on using an electric mountain bike.

I had enjoyed a leisurely 6mile stroll on a busy weekend avoiding most of humanity and discovered a few more pieces of local history.

 

 

*****

OUT WITH THE LARK.

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,                                                                                                     George Meredith.

It was that sort of morning. I wasn’t exactly up with the lark but they were singing on high as I set off up the fell. The sky hanging above the heather was blue with a few wisps of white cloud, a lark sky if ever I saw one.

I strolled up the slope, my breathing has been laboured recently. My mood lifted with every step. The Vale of Chipping has taken on a new life as fields are cut and the patchwork of colours intensifies. It is good to see the progress of agriculture down there from up here.

The trig point is reached with little effort. How many times have I been up here? How many times have I photographed the pillar against the background of the Bowland Fells? The Yorkshire three peaks are in haze.

I wander on and dive into the dark forest on a track I know brings me out above the Ribble Valley. The warm scent of the new pine needles is intoxicating. Memories of Alpine days drift by.

I forget to look at Pendle as my gaze is down to the little reservoir where I saw the Canada Goose chicks the other day. The same cuckoo is calling somewhere in the trees and the same Stonechat singing on his wall perch.

Is this next bird a Meadow Pipit or a Skylark?  [no obvious crest] I’m back at the car after a magic hour and a half. I used to run that stretch in about 20minutes. Today I was happy to take in the skies and the larks.

*****

POETIC LICENSE – The Road Not Taken.

Yesterday my plan was to wait until early evening before venturing out. It’s a nice time of day and there should be fewer people about. Now that I’ve been out once in the car to reach Longridge Fell for a walk I hoped to go further.

Every parking place on the southern side of the fell was packed, with cars alongside the roads.

I lost heart and drove home.

But before I threw in the towel I discovered another three ‘slate poems’ propped up at the popular spots.  They seem to keep appearing as if by magic and each one has a beautifully written verse reflecting our environment and possibly our predicament.

Thank you whoever you are.

Tonight’s three –

Katrina Porteous.

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it whatever you want, it is
happiness,

Mary Oliver.