I should be writing of a glorious winter’s day cycling around Preston’s Guild Wheel with calming pictures of ‘Swan Lake’ in Brockholes Nature Reserve. But no I’m lying down for my blood pressure’s sake having endured today’s Prime Minister’s Question Time. Misquoting those statistics and lie after damn lie from Boris Johnson.
Worse for him today he was questioned keenly by Angela Rayner, who is much sharper and incisive than her Leader. She pointed out that in October he had said fears of inflation were unfounded, so how did he explain inflation running at 6%? Flustered, he just lied, “I said no such thing”. As is the fault of Question Time the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, moved on to the next question but Angela came back at him later with a dubious point of order stating that a video on Sky was available with his damning interview. Touché.
In his subsequent statement on the Covid crisis I expected his blaze “riding out the Omicron wave” and “putting the NHS on a War Footing” – whatever those phrases mean when our hospitals are one by one going under with the pressure of admissions, staff shortages and declaring ‘critical incidents’. SNP’s Ian Blackford, always entertaining and to the point, twisted in the knife with further questions which ruffled Boris. He has no answer or remedy for these problems, and more worryingly seems unconcerned.
I’m sure this will be highlighted in most of tomorrow’s papers and media, but in the meantime my blood pressure is still critical, and I worry about the state of our fragile Democracy whilst this serial perjurer is Prime Minister.
I, and I hope the public, have had enough of his lies, damn lies and statistics.
I came out today and climbed the fell to try and capture a suitable photo for my season’s greetings. Maybe a robin, maybe a patch of snow or some holly berries or even a man in a Santa hat. No, I have failed, as you can see from my photo above. All was grey and gloomy.
It’s been that sort of week. Most days I didn’t venture out into the raw weather. I was kept busy wrapping presents and mulling over wine. Making lists and peeling vegetables. Phoning distant friends not seen for months, even years. Avoiding the crowded last minute shopping. Enduring lateral flow tests and crossing fingers, already two of my grandchildren will be absent from the festivities. So this is Christmas.
One bright spot today was a repainted slate poem in a cupboard with a humorous line – which made me smile.
One advantage of cycling the Preston Guild Wheel on a Saturday is that the little docklands railway is often running. The Ribble Steam Railway runs on a stretch of the lines that come out of a branch from Preston Station. At one time there were extensive lines serving the docks, but now the only commercial use is an infrequent goods train supplying a local Total bitumen plant. I’ve only ever seen the preserved trains on their short stretch of line. Recently was a special occasion as it was the maiden journey of a recently restored Furness Railway 0-4-0 steam engine no 20. This was originally built in 1863! What a sight and sound as it trundled along the track pulling a couple of coaches filled with waving enthusiasts.
I ended up in conversation with a couple from Bolton who often bring their bikes up here to cycle the guild wheel with lunch in the wonderful Boathouse café on Preston Marina, a stone’s throw from the wheel. They also had stopped to watch the train and were trying to take pictures for their grandson. Like myself, they find cycling on off-road trails far more relaxing and safer than our busy roads. We end up comparing trails as one does with fellow enthusiasts, although I have to admit to being an amateur. I do however recommend to them the trails in the Lancaster area, which I’ve been using recently. I give them a link to the bikehike mapping website that I mentioned in my last post. They have family living up in Halton, just off the motorway, so seemed keen to explore a little farther afield. I wave them goodbye, expecting them to quickly overtake me, but I never see them again. Just one of those pleasant encounters.
My most striking conversation was today. I was taking a break on the bench opposite Broughton’s War Memorial, in the now traffic calmed Garstang Road. Next week will be Armistice Day and there will be a service here to remember the fallen. As well as listing the dead from WW1 and WW2 there is a plaque dedicated to a James Towers a local man who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in the first world war. He died peacefully in 1977.
As I said I was taking a break here when a young lady cyclist pulled up for the same reason and we shared the bench. I wasn’t prepared for the story she, perhaps reluctantly, came out with. She was cycling the Guild Wheel for the first time in ages to remember her partner who died of Covid this year. It would have been his birthday today. He had been a fit young man, a runner and a cyclist, but ended up on a ventilator for two months before he finally succumbed. I gave my, probably pathetic sounding, sympathy and complemented her ride on what must be a difficult occasion. The conversation continued, it turned out she is a nurse who has worked throughout the pandemic. She wasn’t allowed to see her loved one in intensive care because of the restrictions, and this must have been heartbreaking for her, as at times she was on the wards in the same hospital. Wow, I admire her bravery.
We talk about the continuing pandemic, it isn’t over yet as you may have noticed, and her present nursing duties. She is far less critical than I at how our government has handled the crisis. She does however state the all too obvious fact, seemingly ignored by our politicians, that the hospitals are at breaking point. This week, three patients on ventilators were airlifted from a NW hospital to Birmingham to try and create room for more patients with life-threatening illnesses. I can’t comprehend the dedication that young women like her show in continuing to serve their patients in these desperate times.
She goes on her way, and I am left to contemplate what life has thrown at her.
It was January 2020 when Sir Hugh and I were last over in East Yorkshire, walking our straight line coast to coast. (My comment on that post may explain the naming of our line) No progress has been made since then, for obvious reasons. But today we are back, with four days walking to reach the sea.
Foggathorpe feels familiar as we pick up the old Market Weighton to Bubwith rail line which is now a pedestrian and cycle route conveniently coinciding with our 438 latitude line. As a railway line goes, this is quite pleasant, with verdant vegetation and a succession of locals with a variety of dogs. We even meet a horse rider trotting along.
Back on the Bubwith – Market Weighton Line.
Australian Shepherd Dog and Patterdale Terrier.
Patterdale x Jack Russell.
We leave the line at the Old Holme station, where the last lady we met lives on the old station house.
Holme Upon Spalding Moor Station.
A minor road is used to bypass the main road through the village, this brings us out exactly opposite the lane we need to take to reach All Saints Church. It is set on the top of the only hill, 45 m, in the area. We approach through a wonderful flower meadow. It is an ideal spot to find a bench, enjoy the view and have some lunch. The church is Medieval, with some parts dating from the C13th. The limestone stonework is elaborate on the C15th tower, and in parts the softer sandstones show a lot of wear. It is closed, so we wander around the very extensive graveyard. There are several war graves of English and Australian airmen, nearby there used to be an RAF airbase used in the second world war.
Close by the church on the hill in a field of wheat is the remains of a Royal Observer Corps post from the second world war, this is of interest to Sir Hugh as his father was a member of the Corps. There is not much left to see. There is also evidence of a locked underground bunker which was used during the Cold War years as a nuclear monitoring post.
A good public footpath ran straight through the crops and linked up at the bottom of the hill with a farm track, which we planned to use to avoid busy road walking. We were aware of possible trespass, and when the first farm vehicle approached we were asked if we had “lost the footpath”. Explaining our route, we were given the go ahead but “to keep our heads down when passing the big house”, this we did. We were walking through an enormous pig farm with muddy pigs everywhere and little tin huts for them to sleep in.
Our plan works, and soon we are on a quiet road heading east to North Cliff where our car was parked. I suspect we will have to follow many of these lanes to stay close to our line. It looks like we are walking through an estate whose properties have similar architectural features. Our car is parked by the North Cliffe Village Hall next to an old church.
North Cliff Lodge.
North Cliff Church and Village Hall.
Black clouds appear and thunder reverberates all around us, but we survive without a soaking, although the muggy conditions are unpleasant.
Time to go and find our hotel north of Hull, we may struggle to find much of interest to write about on this walk.
There has hardly been any rain in the last few weeks, it was bound to change and it was just The Rockman’s bad luck to be here today. I have not seen him for almost a year, so when he phoned to say he was passing en-route to Milnthorpe and would call in for coffee, I was delighted. I had recently declined to visit him in Bolton when their Covid figures were sky-high and travel there was discouraged. Times have moved on, and now the Ribble Valley is leading the way in UK infections. As he said, “that was no problem”.
I suggested a gentle walk up Longridge Fell and then a spot of lunch before his onward journey. The morning was dull when he arrived, optimistically wearing shorts and short-sleeved summer shirt. After a coffee and catch up, even my cat seemed pleased to see him, we drove up the fell. There were spots of rain in the air as we left the car. Our attention was diverted by a patch of orchids in the car park.
The track up the fell was as dry as I’ve ever seen it so the usual bog jumping tactics weren’t needed. Slowly the cloud lowered, blotting out any views of the Bowland Hills or the Yorkshire Three Peaks. We chatted away, ignoring the dampness, as he said, “it was only hill drizzle”. The summit cairn came and went, we had only passed one other walker on his way down. I navigated us into the forest for some shelter and a different way back. As he said, “there was little evidence of a path”, but I knew better and forged onwards, used to these hidden parts. It was only when we emerged from the trees heading downhill in the wrong direction that I admitted we could be lost or as all good explorers say “temporally displaced” Coincidentally at the time we were discussing Tilman who had his fair share of epics. The Rockman actually met Bill Tilman way back in the sixties down in Antarctica when the latter was exploring the southern seas and The Rockman working for the British Antarctic Survey, there was talk of penguins. Backtracking soon sorted out our problem.
When we next emerged from the trees the rain was continuous and as he said, “wetting”. You all know a summer’s day walking in unexpected rain. Speed was of essence, and we were soon back at the car driving home with the heater on. What was planned as a cold summer cucumber soup was quickly heated up to be more palatable on a day like this. I even switched the central heating on for the first time for months, this was not a success as it produced a dull droning noise throughout the house, I suspect coming from an ailing pump. Something to worry about later.
We enjoyed a good catchup and if he hadn’t come I would certainly not have ventured out, so some exercise was accomplished which we both agreed was worthwhile and should be repeated more often now we are hopefully coming out of lockdown, but maybe with an eye to the weather forecast. He drove away in a heavy downpour. As he said, “the luck of the draw”.
I’ve been very good during the Pandemic, self-isolating for my own good, not mixing with my family or anyone else really, not travelling outside my area and living off home deliveries. The latter have been excellent, and I’ve put on a few pounds. Today I went high into the Bowland Fells for the first time in months. I felt strangely anxious, not wanting a helicopter rescue. But I have walked this route hundreds of times, it was once my evening fell run.
I parked in my little slot below Saddle End and walked slowly up the fell. As usual, I met no one going this way and I was so slow others would have overtaken me. Skylarks were in full song, and it was a joy to be on the hill.
I took the manufactured track across the side of the fell, but I had to deviate over the flagstones to take in the highest point, the cairn of Fairsnape Fell, 520 m. One can’t come up here without visiting the top, but apparently many do. I was rewarded in solitude with views over to the three Yorkshire Peaks area where friends were walking today – if they could get parked anywhere.
The beeline to Paddy’s Pole, the other summit of Fair Snape, 510 m, was easy as the peat hags had dried up in the last couple of weeks. You can hardly believe the difference in that time from limb sucking bogs to dry, even dusty, peat. Anyhow, I wasn’t complaining.
There was no one at the cairns or trig point on this westerly bit of Fair Snape Fell. I sat and ate an orange looking out to Morecambe Bay and the hazy Lake District. I spent some time scouting out for a flat area suitable for an overnight bivi. Last year, or the year before, I bivied out on Beacon Fell and Longridge Fell and I want to complete the trilogy which was halted last year.
Then it was fast walking around the fell rim towards Parlick, not forgetting to spot Nick’s Chair [Martin B]
Earlier in the day I’d spotted parapentes in the sky, launching from the more unusual east side of Parlick. I took the track in their direction hoping for some close up photos, but it seemed to be lunchtime. None were in the air. Some were still making their laborious way up. As soon as I was halfway down they stared appearing in the sky once more.I took the steep way down the fell.
Traversing lapwing fields took me back to the road and my solitary car. I managed to buy some excellent free-range eggs at the end of the lane.
Down came the soft top for an exhilarating drive home. I do feel I’ve been released. On a day like today up there in the Bowland Fells you couldn’t feel any different. A natural high.
Lockdown eased yesterday but from the pictures of rubbish in the Lake District perhaps for some a few days earlier, I am concerned about our ability to come out of lockdown safely and it is not helped by what I see today.
The hottest day of the year so far as I walk up to the trig point on Longridge Fell. Within yards of the car park I come across litter in the form of bottles and cans, masks and yes, dog poo bags all recently discarded.
It was only last year that barbecues set light to this area, we were lucky the fire brigade dealt with it so quickly and efficiently. When will it happen again?
I became irritated and even more so when I see a lady with four dogs running loose, dogs must be on a leash from March 1st because of ground nesting birds. Calling her she answers that she has badly strained her ankle and is trying to hobble back to the car park. I wonder if she ever had the dogs on lead in the first place, but give her the benefit of the doubt and wish her well getting back.
The top of the fell is reached without further problems apart from deep mud. A charming Japanese man with his daughter and friend are admiring the views, he remarks on the tranquilly of the scene. I have to agree and also enquire how he kept his trainers so clean walking up through the peat bogs.
Onwards into the woods and out onto the path past the grandiose gate to the kennels.
There were two heads bobbing up and down along with the frogs in the small reservoir lower down, the two ladies have swum all winter, today is the first without wetsuits.
As I was walking back up through the plantation I watched a barn owl quartering the open areas, they seem to be a common sight this year.
On the way home I called into a local shop to buy myself a ‘litter picker gadget’ so tomorrow if I venture up the fell, I usually do, I can positively improve the environment. I will pack the litter into a plastic bag and then on the way home I can chuck it over a fence like this lot…
I expected Hurst Green to be full of cars this morning, but we were able to park up outside the Bailey Arms with no trouble. I think we stole a march on most people by being away early. A new signpost has been erected near the Shireburn Inn to get you on the right track. Dropping to join the River Ribble seemed muddier than normal, a lot of people have come this way in the last few months. To start with we had the riverside path to ourselves with wide-ranging views. Only as we approached Winkley Farm did a steady stream of people start appearing from the opposite direction. Fishermen were wading in the Ribble just upstream from where it joins the Hodder. A new path, not particularly aesthetic, gives a dry way across a particularly muddy field. A lot of people were milling about at Cromwell’s Bridge and on the path alongside the Hodder, we couldn’t work out how some of these groups were constituted with no social distancing in evidence – I suspect people are coming out of lockdown of their own volition. Up at Hodder Court Gandalf is staring out over the Ribble Valley, although his hat seems ready to fall off. We walked on through the grounds of Stonyhurst College to a now busy Hurst Green. I dread to think what this walk will be like after April 12th when people can travel further.
Here are a few photos…
A deserted Bailey Arms, I wonder whether it will survive.
We were glad of our poles in the mud.
Aqueduct over the Ribble taking water to Blackburn.
Hodder and Ribble meet – spot the fisherman.
That Winkley Oak.
The new ‘bypass’
Trail walkers with Stonyhurst in the background.
A wooden Gandalf.
For more comprehensive views of this walk please have a look at
My birthday happens to coincide with the date Lockdown commenced last year. There seemed quite a fuss about this [not my birthday], whilst I have every sympathy with the thousands of families affected by Covid deaths and they should not be forgotten, I am not one for lighting candles or creating memorial days for an event we have not dealt with very satisfactorily. I would almost go so far as to say they are devious attempts by the government to distract our attention from the failings and flag wave for our vaccine successes. Dangerous tactics.
Back to today’s walk, which I have completed many times recently, to make an occasion of it I took a picnic with me to enjoy higher up. Last year I visited the limestone quarry opposite Arbour Farm occasionally for its wildlife so as I pass today I have a look in. There are a couple of roe deer scampering away and a hare following. It’s too soon for any significant flowers but there a few mallards on the water and pheasants taking cover. In the past this area has been used as a shoot and the birds fed in the season. All around are spent shotgun cartridges. I take particular note as I’ve just been reading a DEFRA report of the latest attempts to ban lead ammunition. Lead ammunition could be phased out under government plans to help protect wildlife and nature, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow announced today (23 March). There has been a wealth of evidence that lead is damaging to humans, wildlife and the environment and yet a large amount of lead ammunition is discharged every year. Apart from the yearly slaughter of birds there is research showing wild fowl ingest lead pellets, mistaken for food, causing considerable deaths from poisoning. The Government have been slow to do anything about it and a voluntary transition by the shooting industry has not worked. A recent review showed the majority of game birds sold to the public had been killed using lead shot. So all change then – well not quite – the Government is proposing a two-year review of the evidence and then public consideration. A typical fudge when the hunting and shooting brigade are involved. Why don’t we just get on and ban it now. [In Denmark, hunters have had to use alternatives since 1996, when lead shot was banned]
Moving on I made my way up onto the fell and found a sheltered spot for my simple Birthday picnic in a little quarry nearby. I have recently started climbing in here again after many years, there is a small wall suitable for bouldering away from the Covid crowds that are making themselves unwelcome at the usual bouldering spot, Craig Y Longridge. It is up here that I have been regularly seeing Barn Owls flying around at dusk. Today a kestrel was hovering not far from me and a pair of Buzzards were wheeling high in the sky. Nice place for a picnic in the sun.
I wander home down the switchback lane. I had various texts etc appear on my phone from absent friends and family and in my porch a box of beer and a single malt. Not such a bad birthday after all.
I’ve struggled to put a post together this week, in fact I’ve struggled to do much at all. Are we all getting burnout? This afternoon I went on a wake-up walk around the village.
There is a new shop opened, ‘Bowland Organics’, the clue is in the name. It is getting good reviews for the freshness of its vegetables and other local produce. Most days the artisan bread is sold out within hours, as it should be. It is closed by the time I walk by, so you will have to wait for my opinion.
Just up the road, Berry Lane, I see that one of the slate poems has been smashed, not simply broken but obviously vandalised into many pieces. I’ve been commenting on and photographing these poems since they started appearing almost a year ago. See here,there and everywhere. All were chosen to give hope and enlightenment in our troubled times, and I’ve found inspiration from them in my local wanderings. I’m sad at the sight but then notice that against the tree another poem has appeared, this time by Emily Dickinson.
As it was.
The new slate.
My last post had a heading photo of nearby Hope Lane so lets all hope for the better.
I have just returned from one of my around Longridge walks. One keeping to the hard surfaces. It is wild and windy, cool with more rain due shortly. I acknowledged and chatted to friends in passing, even their dogs are getting to know me. It is surprising how many have tested positive for the Covid virus and been ill, I’m glad I have kept myself semi isolated. and I’ve had one vaccination six weeks back now.
The not so Merry-Go-Round continues as we are urged to stay at home, I did the same yesterday and no doubt tomorrow I’ll repeat a similar walk.
But cases, hospital admissions and deaths are coming down, and schools are back. So what may we plan for in the coming weeks? I need to remind myself of the Government’s ‘roadmap’ for coming out of lockdown. As I think they apply to me –
From 29 March:
People will be allowed to meet outside, either with one other household or within the “rule of six”, including in private gardens
The stay at home rule will end, but the government will urge people to stay local as much as possible
Stage two (no earlier than 12 April):
All shops allowed to open, along with hairdressers.
Restaurants and pubs allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
Members of the same household can take a holiday in the UK in self-contained accommodation
Stage three (no earlier than 17 May):
People can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors
Six people or two households can meet indoors
Pubs and restaurants can seat customers indoors
Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen
International leisure travel may resume.
There is little guidance on social distancing, hand hygiene or face mask wearing. Perhaps the scientists will remind us of those in due course.
All the above depending on –
The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan.
Vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying or needing hospital treatment.
Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions.
New coronavirus variants do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions.
Where does that leave me? Well from the end of March I can walk locally with up to six people which is an improvement. My son who lives local can come for a brew in the garden but I’m not sure if I can meet up with my family from Manchester, too distant. In April, I can get my hair cut and stay in self-catering accommodation, though a lot is already booked up. I assume travelling further afield is then permitted. Not until May could I stay in a hotel or B&B. I have no desire to rush abroad whilst European cases are high or variants about, Ryanair’s emails to me suggest otherwise.
I have a few short backpacking trips in quiet areas of the UK on the slow burner so they are a possibility either with B&B’s or taking a tent to be independent. I’d better retrieve one of my tents from the back of the cupboard to check it for worthiness. Even better I should be able to meet up with friends I’ve not seen for a year for some exercise and a pint. I have a feeling that any outing is going to feel rather strange, I will have to get into a different mindset – a lot has changed in a year. I think any alpine trip can wait till next year but what about the Canaries next winter? I did spot this on the fell last week…
Oh well, don’t hold your breath I will be around Longridge again tomorrow. Treat yourself to a little Pete Green…
As I lay in the mud at the bottom of the bank, mopping the blood dripping down my forehead and checking my limbs for breakages, my thoughts drifted to casualty departments in the middle of the Covid crisis. Earlier in the day I’d been chatting to friends who were telling me that senior staff at Preston Hospital have stopped cycling whilst casualty is under pressure, they don’t want any broken bones. For the last week I’ve been looking up at Fairsnape Fell wondering about an ascent and then imagining a helicopter rescue and all the recriminations, so I’ve kept to the lanes for relative safety. Yet here I was lucky to get away with grazing and a blow to my ego. The brambles that had ensnared me were still wrapped around my legs. Being covered from head to foot in mud I drew surprised glances as I shuffled back to my car.
The rest of the gentle stroll in the sunshine had gone well. Brockholes is a nature reserve based on flooded gravel pits easily seen from the M6 coming south at J31. The Preston Guild Wheel cycling route goes through the middle of it so I’ve visited it many times but not in any depth. The only time I’ve called at the café/visitor centre was many years ago with Mel on one of his visits up north. My plan for today was to walk around the boundary of the reserve.
I had parked up near the crematorium in Grimsargh after one of those guilt laden 4 mile drives ‘staying local’. The guild wheel route soon brought me down that steep bank into the reserve, here I turned left to reach the River Ribble thus avoiding the busy central areas. A good track followed the river all the way to the motorway bridge. Apart from the friends I unexpectedly met there were a couple of fishermen and only the occasional birdwatcher – you can tell them by the size of their telescopes. I wonder if there is some unwritten competition for the largest. I saw two Egrets by the river.
At the motorway I transferred to the gravel track bordering the west side of the lakes and was surprised as to how quickly I became almost immune to the traffic noise. There was one hide along here from where I saw ducks, grebes and swans – must get one of those big scopes, my equipment isn’t big enough. It was shortly afterwards I dived into the mud.
Just before going back up the steep hill I took a few minutes sat on a log, partly to clean my wounds and partly to watch the wild life feeding on crumbs left by a previous passer-by. Tits, a nuthatch and grey squirrels were my final tally for the day.
Halfway up the steep Birk’s Brow lane I stopped for a breath; there was little to see in the murk, my mind had switched off a mile back, I was not even sure why I was there. Had I come to my Covid lockdown impasse? Had the repetition and boredom caught up with me? Was there a way out from this pandemic? I was taken aback by this negativity that had suddenly descended upon me. Was my hope fading? I had imagined I’d been coping well with all the setbacks and heartaches of the last year but was this the reckoning I had to face? Too many questions for which I couldn’t find an answer. I moved on in a cloud of my own making.
I have mentioned in several posts the poems written on old slates that have appeared around Longridge during these troubled times. Uplifting themes and thoughts for us all to share. I often wondered who was the artist of these calligraphic verses. Well around the corner a lady pulled up in her car and proceeded to pick up the cracked slate there. “Do you know ?… are you the person ?…” I’d stumbled on the originator of all these slate poems. She had started with one and then been encouraged to do more with friends recommending poems. I was overjoyed to speak to the lady.
My day was saved, and I walked on through Longridge with a spring in my step.
The frost and snow have gone, for now. Today is misty and murky, I can’t even see the fell from my house. I had a low level walk planned along the roads back to Grimsargh for another look at the wetlands, today would be ideal. On the way I dropped off an apple crumble for my friend in Brabiner Lane, he wasn’t in so will find it hopefully on his doorstep later. Brabiner Lane is renowned for its twisty narrowness and is best avoided in a car. With little traffic at present I crept carefully around its bends. I passed the embankment where there had been a bridge for the branch railway line to the old Whittingham Hospital mentioned in the above post. It was depressing to see so much litter along the verges. More new housing was going ahead at the entrance to Grimsargh Green.
Welcome to Grimsargh.
I chatted to a friend on the Green about our Covid vaccinations – the hot topic at the moment, She has managed to get two, I have mine on Sunday hopefully.
When I explored the ‘wetlands’, redundant reservoirs, a couple of weeks ago they were frozen over, and I didn’t find my way to the viewing hide. Today I found the gate leading to the hide – it was locked [Covid precautions] but I managed to climb over and enter the reserve. Very impressive. At least this time there was open water with a few ducks, geese and coots paddling about. I walked on to the bridge separating the mere from the reed beds and was able to see lapwings roosting on the misty island. My camera is not good enough to pick them out. Whilst here a gentleman from Longridge appeared with his binoculars and we exchanged observations. He used to be a postman and still walks miles every day, our paths often cross.
I walked back along the busy main road and the only other thing to note is the discovery of yet another of those ‘slate poems’ propped up on a tree, They have appeared during this pandemic, which is almost a year’s duration, and are usually reflective and uplifting. On the other side of the tree some less artistic wag has left this offering…
The sun never came out, it was as misty when I arrived home as when I had left.
Bear with me, if anything interesting happens on one of these local walks from home I will let you know. Today was a grey day and I left Longridge at noon to wander some lanes and footpaths between here and Goosnargh.
I met a lady who was incensed that a dog had scratched her piece of lawn on the roadside, it looked innocuous to me. I suspect she would not be a good neighbour. A cyclist passed me on Ashley Lane. I left the road at Stump Cross and walked through the egg factory of Field Foot Farm and then on through boggy fields towards the church in Goosnargh.
Another quiet lane with horse riders led on to Broadeth Lane and then Ford Lane. I dread to think what this would be like if it was up to the 6-foot level. New House Farm is possibly one of the oldest in the district. The Cottage restaurant is a throw back to the 50s, prawn cocktails, chicken in a basket and sherry trifle. I diverted to have a look at Hill Chapel, another RC established from the C18th and run for many years by Franciscan and then Benedictine monks. There is some history at – http://www.stfrancisgoosnargh.org.uk/ Walking around the graveyard I came across the recent grave of a friend of mine, a sad reminder of his vivid personality.
Next I walked through the grounds of the fishing lakes owned by Horns Dam. The dam was originally the water source for Goosnargh Cotton Mill which I had passed earlier in the day. I knew the next stretch through fields that have been divided up with electric fences for the nearby horse stables would annoy me. And it did. I have complained to the authorities about the loss of public rights of way in this location but nothing seems to have been done.
Again I set off from home on familiar paths to Gill Bridge where I skated up the icy road before I took the path along Elmridge. Elmridge is a small eminence in the Vale of Chipping between the Bleasdale Fells and Longridge Fell, its position giving it good views of the area. These views are better on the road across the top rather than on my footpath along the southern side, but I’d not walked this way for several years. A friend has moved into a little house along here, so I was able to have a few words in passing. The family have adopted lots of stray kittens and have some fine fowl. The next farm along, again owned by a friend who has recently died is surrounded by woodlands that he planted over the years, a fitting memorial.
It wasn’t the clearest of days but Longridge Fell was always there.
In Hesketh Lane I passed the site of an old mill now strangely used as a depot for a local coach firm. The mill stream is clearly visible and a notice tells of recently installed fish ladders to allow fish and eels access higher up the stream. The Dog and Partridge is sadly closed, like several other old inns of the area. Notice the cheese press stone, a common sight in this area of Lancashire. I took the curiously named Judd Holmes Lane through frozen fields leading me back to the Knott Farm where I was the other day.. This time I made the detour to visit the little church at Lee House. Be sure to have a look at – https://www.lan-opc.org.uk/Chipping/stwilliam/index.html for some interesting history.
I then joined the crowds walking along the pavements to Longridge. We should all be a lot fitter after this pandemic is over.
The main road from Longridge to Chipping, which is busier than ever, passes through the small parish of Thornley with Wheatley which you won’t have heard of. It is not a village but merely a scattering of houses and farms. Today’s walk came this way. I’m resigned to those local footpaths that I walked to death in last Spring’s lockdown, but I’m looking for variations. Yesterday it rained continuously, and I didn’t get out of my dressing gown such is the tedium of Covid-19 lockdown that brings inertia on me one or two days a week. But today the sun shone and I had roughly plotted this route the night before which gives a degree of impetus to get up and go.
I leave Longridge along a rather boggy Clay Lane, the snow has gone and the frost is dispersing. Back in the last century there were tile works hereabouts. I was soon across the fields to Gill Bridge over the infant River Loud, today running fast with melt water. I traversed the estate of Blackmoss owned by the Lord Derby family since the C18th. The Derby Arms in is just up the road as is Thornley Hall. Vague paths which I know well crossed over to The Knott farm which is lying empty since the farmer died last year. He was seeped in the land and always seen in his tweed jacket and wellington’s, you could always tell if he was in the local supermarket by a distinct manure odour. He would turn up at my house occasionally with either a tray of 36 eggs or a basket of field mushrooms if they were in season. His sort will be sadly missed.
The empty Knott Farm
I recrossed the Loud and took the little lanes past Wheatley Farm house, 1774, at the base of Longridge Fell. Down the road is Lee House RC church and the old Thornley School which I didn’t visit and wished I had.
Lane to Wheatley.
Eventually I had to commit to the climb past Dale House and into the woods before coming out onto the golf course above. I was then back on that road leading back to Longridge which I’ve used regularly the last few weeks.
Dale House farm.
Parlick and Fairsnape from the golf course.
Old gate post to Longridge Golf Course established with Preston Cycling Club.
A short diversion was taken to see if I could get a photo of that highland cow with its calf. I managed a better picture of the mother but the infant kept its backside to me. A friend was climbing at Craig y Longridge our local bouldering venue and others were out running up the fell, everyone taking advantage of the sunny weather. An extract from The Lancashire Village Book gives more history here – http://www.visitoruk.com/Blackburn/thornley-with-wheatley-C592-V28146.html
Last year I had a chance meeting with an old acquaintance from many years ago. He has always been a keen amateur naturalist. I have on a wall in my study a collection of Mountain Butterflies he gave me 40 years ago, when it was still acceptable to stick pins through insects. When I met him last he told me about work he had been doing on some redundant reservoirs in neighbouring Grimsargh. They were being converted into nature wetlands, and he encouraged me to visit. So that was my plan today. I was halfway out of Longridge when I realised, too late, I’d forgotten my pocket binoculars!
There used to be a railway from Longridge to Preston calling at Grimsargh. It served the stone quarries in Longridge from1840 but also provided a passenger service [closed 1930] and a goods service for the cotton mills until 1967. I should write a post one day on what remains of the line in the area. From Stone Bridge I followed close to the line of the railway down into the Shay Lane Industrial Estate, a fine way to start a country walk. There is a surprising variety of businesses along here hidden away from the rest of the village. Cheeses, timbers, metal shelving, builders’ merchant, fruit and veg supplier, JCB, as well as many smaller units.
There’s more than one way to decorate a tree.
At the end is Shay Lane Farm, always neat and tidy. From there I took to the fields alongside Savick Brook, they were sufficiently frozen to avoid wet feet. The contrast from Industrial to rural was sudden.
I came into Grimsargh at Dixon’s Farm where a branch railway line heading to Whittingham Hospital could be clearly identified. In 1889, a private branch line was opened northwards from Grimsargh to Whittingham Asylum two miles away. As well as supplies, hospital staff and visitors were carried free of charge in converted goods brake vans. The line continued in use until 1957 connecting with bus services after the main line was closed to passengers.
The Whittingham Hospital branch line.
J D 1736
The map below shows the railway lines as well as the Reservoirs.
1930map. National Library of Scotland.
While I was at Grimsargh Green I visited the large garden of a friend to wish her a distant Happy New Year, strange times. I then took a footpath following the line of the railway towards the reservoirs, but they were securely surrounded by metal fencing and I ended up going a long way round to gain the path through them.
Line to Longridge.
There was no public access to the wetlands themselves and of course today there was no wet – just ice. The smallest reservoir has been developed as a reed bed. I now realise there is a viewing point over the two lakes from a different access point, next time. Not a bird insight except for a curious robin.
I was soon out onto the main road and Elston Lane. My footpath onwards was blocked by new development with a closure notice lasting until Feb 2021, but it looks as though this situation will continue for much longer, I hope the locals insist on the footpath being reinstated once the building work is completed.
Looking at the map I found other paths to circumvent the problem and was soon walking back to Alston and fields over to Longridge.
I need to return to spend more time at the wetlands if we are allowed out. I’m hoping Boris will swiftly follow the sensible proactive steps of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies to keep on top of this Covid-19 crisis, and we must all do our part and act responsibly.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” so the Chinese saying of LaoTzu goes, seems fitting for a New Year’s Day.
A chance reading of a fellow blogger last night about her 1000-mile challenge from last year had me totting up my own rough mileage for the year – it was just over 700. Given that it was a strange year, staying local and not completing my usual half dozen long distance walks, that wasn’t too bad a total. So I decided and have now proclaimed to you my desire to cover the thousand this year. No fancy app counting steps around the house or going to the shops, just ‘proper’ walks that I would normally write up in my diary. I may get distracted into cycling or if the weather is good into bouldering and climbing which could limit my progress.
This afternoon, January 1st, I did five miles from home – a good start. We are in Covid-19 Tier 4 lockdown at present, so I won’t be travelling far by car for some time, but I can reach the countryside easily from my doorstep.
I’ll share some of my walks here until I become bored with the same old ones around Longridge, I’ll need to be creative to cover the mileage with interest rather than just for the exercise.
On the news today people from London, Tier 4, are being turned away from the Brecon Beacons which happens to be in Wales. It beggars belief and I would hope that they are fined, but it is unlikely. We are in the most serious phase of the Covid-19 crisis and people are not heeding the advice never mind the rules. January is going to be bleak.
My drive today was a safe three miles for a walk on lanes out of Goosnargh for some more exercise and vitamin D.
I could have sworn from past visits that the lane down past Middleton Hall was well surfaced but no I was mistaken, it was muddier than my trainers could cope with. I carried on regardless. The views to the Bowland Hills and Longridge Fell were from a different angle to recent ones.
Beacon Fell and Bleasdale.
Westfield Brook was running swiftly below the little footbridge but there were signs in the fields of recent flood levels. On the far side was a dedication bench with the quotation – “Time is precious. Waste it wisely.”Attributed to a K Bromberg. I wish I’d thought of that, but I’ve not even read any of her sexy novels. The lane did improve as I approached Goosnargh Lodge. In a field alongside is a magnificent Cedar Of Lebanon, it deserves a better setting.
The roadside lodge to the lodge has been renovated. I was then back onto roads all the way to Goosnargh coming into the village alongside Bushell House.Bushell House has been running as a Charitable Trust to care for the elderly since 1743. My mother enjoyed her last few years there.
Next door was the parish church, C16th St. Mary’s. I popped my head inside and ended up in a long conversation with a long-lost friend who is a church warden. Outside is a sandstone sun dial dated 1746 and the medieval base of a cross, sadly overgrown.
Two old inns completed the scene, Bushells Arms is now a private house and The Grapes is to let.
The Bushells Arms.
I’ll finish with the pubs and a shot of the late December sky.*****