Tag Archives: Lancashire


20231130_135009xThe temperature is hovering just above zero, but we must be under a high pressure there is no wind and the sun is shining. Perfect. I don’t carry a camera for these two days, I’m trying out my new phone.

Wednesday I join that walking group who put up with my irregular appearances. I’m not really a walking group type of person, a miserable old bugger and proud of it. The meeting place is strangely the Capitol Centre in south Preston. Perhaps the whole thing is a subterfuge for some Christmas Shopping. But no, once we all assembled we are marched off into no man’s land of Walton-le-dale and Lower Penwortham. Old railways and tram tracks wander through light woodland and surprisingly green fields. I keep seeing cycleway signs, so I must look them up for further exploration, there is no such thing as a wasted walk. The talk generally is about the state of the nation in particular the NHS, we are all of an age when most are afflicted.


On our way.


Cheeky chap.


Safely back at the shops

Time passes quickly, I have no idea where I have been but the leader sensibly hands out a map of our route for perusal later.  P1010908

The highlight of these walks is the pub lunch at the end. Today it is Hunters. Being smart I looked up their website the night before and memorised their own map of  the locality. So once we were back in the car I proudly said I knew the way. We all seemed to drive off indifferent directions. Ten minutes later we realised there was no pub at our destination. Out with the phone to plot another route, this time putting in the name of the road – Hennel Lane. Another ten minutes and we were parking up in what appeared to be tacky family fun road house. It was, but the food was ok and they had some decent beers. Should I tell them of their website error or just let other people find out the hard way as we did. You can see the two sites on the map below, take your pick.Capture


Thursday, another day of frost and sun. The usual procrastinating and I end up with a walk up Longridge Fell, nothing wrong with that. I realise I have not had my breakfast which is a bit strange. Being on my own I can dawdle and take pictures of frozen grasses. 20231130_131451

When I set off there are few cars in the carpark but later in the afternoon it is quite busy, dog walkers mainly taking advantage of the good weather. I take my usual route contouring the lower fell – the ‘panorama route’ I call it because of the views over Chipping Vale and the background Bowland Fells of Fair Snape and Totridge. I walk up to the trig point on Spire Hill. The boggy areas are semi frozen making life easier but still giving way on the wetter sections. I have the place to myself, there is not a sound or a drop of wind. The three Yorkshire peaks are clear in the distance, I head back down through the trees first and then reverse my upward route. I meet a mountain biker making the best of the conditions.P101089720231130_134954


A lady is setting up her easel to sketch the scenery in front of her. Unashamedly I interrupt her saying ” I wish I could do that”. She is very modest and replies she struggles to produce anything worthwhile. I’m sure she is underplaying her talents. I find out the name of the gallery in Ribchester where she exhibits and promise to visit. 20231130_142518

A little farther on I meet a friend who spends his time photographing wild life, particularly birds. He is out to see the barn owls that quarter the fellside most evening. I should come up tomorrow to do the same as there is also a short eared owl about. His camera is a foot longer than mine. What envy? 20231130_131355

Two contrasting walks!

Lets hope for more days like this and the winter will feel much shorter.



The blue skies continued for another day and I managed a local walk along the River Brock and up onto Beacon Fell. A rather haphazard sort of ramble as you will see from my map. All very familiar but resplendent in the Autumn colours. There was a lot of flood water on the country roads getting there and in then in the River Brock, even the side streams were raging.P1000505


In my new found fungal mode I kept veering off the path into the mixed deciduous trees looking for specimens. Rotten tree stumps were a fertile hunting ground. Isn’t it great when your photographic objects don’t fly away. Most I could not identify until I was home and using an on line search site. I’m still not that confident on labelling most of my photos but I’m beginning to narrow them down.

I spent a bit of time exploring the old mill site at Brock Bottoms which is slowly disappearing into the vegetation. The mill was once a thriving water-driven cotton spinning mill with up to twenty cottages in the valley for the workers.  The mill was probably built in the 1790s. After a chequered history and two reincarnations as a roller making factory, and then a file making factory the mill finally closed in the 1930s. For some time the ground floor of the mill operated as a café, whilst the top floor was used for dancing on Saturday nights!P1000508P1000514

After the short trip south along the Brock and back again I took the footpath following the river upstream. Before I had gone far, there right alongside the path was a large funnel mushroom, 6 inches across, and while I was clinging to a tree I spotted these tiny capped fungi, barely an inch high.P1000643P1000642

The surrounding trees were putting on a good display. P1000645

I followed the river often on board walks which are deteriorating and becoming very slippy. In parts they have been washed away as the bank becomes eroded. A new raised section has been installed – an expensive path to maintain.P1000654

I went as far as the old ford and than climbed up the rough lane into mixed birch and beech woods. A good spot for bracket fungi.


On reaching the road there seemed to be traffic chaos. There had been a Scouting navigation event on at the nearby Waddecar camp and literally hundreds of cars were coming to pick up the youths. The lanes here are so narrow and had soon become gridlocked. Something the organisers need to sort out before next years event. P1000667

I climbed steeply up into the heights of Beacon Fell, the header photograph showing the light on the way. I was then in the more sterile coniferous trees, but to my delight there were many different fungi hidden away in the depths. One only has to look. I bypassed all the usual paths as I scavenged deep into the trees. I did however eventually reach the obligatory trig point. P1000554


Coming down a different way I took a path I had never used before. It passed hidden Lower Lickhurst, a surprisingly large mansion. I was wary of my right of way through their grounds but good signage and stiles led me out and across fields. I still find these modern gates a little incongruous in the countryside no matter their practicality – probably designed by committee or even AI. An old sunken way dropped me back to the Brock car park to complete an interest filled 6 miles.P1000669P1000671P1000673

I took care to avoid those narrow gridlocked lanes on the way home.





By now you will know that if I just say ‘the fell’ I’m referring to Longridge Fell. However there is a new restaurant in town simply called Fell – not been yet, rather pricy. Saving it for a special occasion. 

I was going to get my hair cut when a phone call came from the ‘slate poem lady’, Clare, wondering if I fancied a walk up the fell as the day was perfect. Of course I did.

We were accompanied by Zola, an Australian Kelpie. This breed, possibly descended from our Collies  are working dogs and need a lot of exercise. Whilst we walked three or four miles I think she did ten. There was a moment of panic when a Roe Deer bounded out of the trees and shot across the heather, Zola picked up the scent and was off. Fortunately cheese snacks dragged her back.

We had already taken a slightly different route up the fell because the paragliders* in the sky were spooking the dog. Normally they are launching themselves off Parlick across the valley, but occasionally if the winds change they congregate up here, using  the steep scarp for launching. P1000620

It all looked very exciting and the views from up there must be great but I was happy to keep my feet on the ground. Some of that ground was very boggy today but we made it to the trig point, yes we could see Ingleborough and Pen-Y-Ghent and the Hodder Valley spread below us, the sky was so clear, before we disappeared into the woods. I love this passage down the tunnel of light. P1000631

A bit of boggy walking, more boggy than I had expected, sorry, on past the tree that I christened ‘It’s Grim Up North’ years ago.P1060060 (2)

Back at the road I took a hidden track into Cowley Brook Plantation for some further circular exploration. We found some unidentified fungi and peered into the deep hole in the ground, Sweden Quarry. After some awkward bracken bashing we were again on the road not far from our parked cars, the paragliders were still enjoying the updraft.. The sun shining bright, these are the autumn days to be enjoyed and praised.


* I hesitated to put up a picture of a paraglider. Three Palestinian PEACE protesters have been arrested in London for displaying such an image – apparently now associated with the dreadful Hamas invasion of Israel. Three women deny showing pictures in support of Hamas – BBC News


What strange times we live in.

Next time I will get a photo of Zola.



On our doorstep are two of the North’s great rivers, the Hodder and the Ribble. I don’t need an excuse to walk along either of them, and today I combine the two where they merge at Winkley on past Hurst Green. I park at the prominent bus stop just before the road drops down to the Lower Hodder Bridge. My previous posts on this area contain far more history and information than I’m about to give you on today’s short walk.

Hop across the road into fields and I’m on the popular Tolkien Trail and the not so popular Ribble Way. The well trodden ground shows just how popular anything to do with Tolkien has become, I estimate that 50% of people visiting Hurst Green walk the trail. Today I’m only sampling it. Soon I’m into the grounds of Winkley Hall and then become distracted by some fine bracket fungi. P1000566P1000592


Past the farm with its ancient moat, now boasting a new ‘duck house’, and there is the Winkley Oak. Today I measured the circumference of the bole, 13m which is over 40 feet. somewhere I have read that it is almost 500 years old. This tree is an old friend of mine and I am pleased to see it in fine form. P1000576P1000578P1000583

By the fishermen’s hut the River Hodder slides into the River Ribble which continues it’s stately way to the sea. It is helped on its way a little farther by the smaller Calder coming from Burnley via Whalley. This latter junction is where the Hacking Ferry boat plied its trade until the 50s. The boat house is a little farther round the bend. I have always been intrigued by the tumulus marked on the map nearby and I try a long distance shot of it. The river is in gentle mood today but flood debris in the trees shows how turbulent it can become after heavy rain. P1000584P1000593P1000597P1000588P1000594P1000601

Soon after Jumbles I’m off the regular trail and heading up the hill to Cross Gills Farm. On the way I meet the lady farmer driving her buggy and checking on her sheep which she can recognise individually. We chat about all things farming, she is uncertain as to the future now that perhaps food can be created in the laboratory. A frightening thought. I’m offered a lift in her buggy up the steep hill to her farm, but that would be cheating wouldn’t it? and I may have missed these fungi and the view over the Ribble. P1000602P1000606P1000607

Straight across the main road into Stonyhurst College land. I circle the cricket pitch with it’s lovely period pavilion. P1000613

Out past Gardener’s Cottage  onto the road  leading back to my car. Halfway along I’m accosted by a lady, doesn’t happen often, who knows me from my past. Once I recollect who she is we spend more time lamenting the demise of all things important to the fabric of our society.  That’s two conversations today reflecting on our past and our future, and I was only out for a bit of exercise. That’s how it goes around here with such lovely folk. I reach the car just as it starts raining – serendipity. And there is Pendle as ever keeping a watch over the Ribble Valley.






I am a born again Mycologist. I’ve seen the light.

I’d signed up for an ‘Introduction to ‘Fungi Walk’ at Brockholes. In the depths of Brockholes’s Nature Reserve Jim, our ‘guide’, holds a small piece of twig with some even smaller black and white stems – Candlesnuff Fungus, for us to examine.  This minute organism may even provide the compounds to fight cancer. He emphasises the importance of fungi in evolutionary terms and future research. Fungi, neither animal nor plant, have been on this earth 1.5 billion years. There are millions of varieties, but we only know of a small percentage. They have helped our environment to evolve. And what may they hold for the future?

What is the world’s largest living organism he asks? – not the Blue Whale or the Sequoia Tree – no there is a fungus that occupies some 2,384 acres in Oregon’s Blue Mountains. 1,665 football fields, or nearly four square miles. A truly humungous fungus. I like the style of our ‘funguy’ Jim. P1000382

Jim, has only this week been on the telly, BBC Northwest Tonight  with everybody’s favourite Roger Johnson in a feature on Brockholes Nature Reserve. Have a look Here if it is still available.

We are in the presence of an amateur expert though even he can only identify a fraction of the thousands of UK’s fungi. Perhaps a hundred or so noted at Brockholes. And the general advice is don’t eat any of them unless they are on the shelves at Tesco. (other supermarkets are available) The names of some of them give a warning. Death Cap, Destroying Angel, Funeral Bell.


It didn’t stop raining all night, and I was expecting a wet morning ahead so dressed for the occasion with full waterproofs as I parked outside the reserve in the Crematorium grounds, (saving the £5 parking fee). This gave me a brisk mile walk down through the woods to the Floating Visitor Centre meet up. There were maybe 20 of us, an eclectic bunch. The sun shone throughout the morning and hence I sweated undercover.P1000347P1000348P1000353

P1000357Jim led us out into the reserve, and we had only gone a few metres before he stopped on a grassy verge. A keen eye was needed to spot the tiny fungi, Blackening Waxcaps, They slowly revert to a black mess. I would have walked straight past them or even worse squashed them. The more studious followers were making notes.


Then onwards into the woods. Puff Balls, Brackets, Slime, Jelly Ears etc etc. Here are some of my hurried photos. P1000366P1000365P1000369P1000368P1000375P1000379

Jim was a wise general naturalist as well as a fungus finder and imparted words of Lancashire wisdom as we proceeded. All very entertaining. Buzzards flew overhead and Long Horn Cattle grazed the meadows. All too soon the adventure was over, and we headed back to the floating visitor centre and more importantly the café. P1000386

After a coffee I had a stroll around the rest of the reserve. There wasn’t a lot happening, so I headed to the River Ribble and followed its banks back to Red Scar Woods and the climb back up to the crematorium high above the river. I was peering around me and examining every bit of dead wood for specimens, I didn’t spot many but I am full of resolve to get out tomorrow with my new-found enthusiasm for fungi. I need to download one of those apps to my phone to help in identification. P1000383P1000350P1000389P1000391P1000394P1000396P1000398P1000399P1000403

The Autumn colours are finally coming through and the cherry trees in the Crematorium were particularly dazzling. I had ended up walking about 6 miles in my wanderings.



This is one of my favourite walks for the wetter months. Virtually dry underfoot the whole way and yet in touch with the imposing Fells of Bowland. I’ve been walking these paths for 50 years since moving to the area. We used to push our two young sons around in a double buggy in the early seventies, remember those. CaptureBuggy

I keep returning and have since introduced my grandchildren to the delights.  But looking back at my recent traverses, there have been many on here, I always seem to have walked anti-clockwise from Bleasdale Church. Time for a change.

I am always looking for somewhere new to explore locally. Today, despite the clocks going back and giving me an extra hour in bed, I’m not really up and going till midday. I have missed my chance to cycle the Fylde Coast or even the Guild Wheel, it will be dark or gloomy before five. So I fall back on the tried and trusted – Bleasdale Estate. But let’s look at the map and why not go clockwise for a change or even for the first time for years, unlikely though that seems.

The mention of Bleasdale Estate may jog memories in some of you of the disastrous court case in 2018 of their gamekeeper, James Hartley, accused by the RSPB of raptor persecution. Technicalities ruled the damming video evidence of his crimes inadmissible. I still question the partiality of the judge. Is Mr Harley still employed on the estate? Have a read for yourself – Case against Bleasdale Estate gamekeeper collapses as RSPB video evidence ruled inadmissible – Raptor Persecution UK

Putting that all aside I park near the Lower Lodge, I’ve always wanted to live there, it’s so cute. The road is still marked Private, but pedestrians seem allowed, I’ve never been challenged, famous last words.  Now that the estate have introduced a ‘Glamping’ site quirkily called ‘Lantern and Larks‘  on their property (more of that later) there is more traffic up and down the private lane. P1000304

I must say that everything about this estate, maybe apart from their raptor persecution problems common with most shooting estates, is immaculate. They obviously take a pride in their appearance. The driveway past the lodge is newly mown either side to perfection. The Bleasdale Fells are in the background of every view on this walk. Since I was last here there has been a lot of clearance of the mixed plantation on the right which was becoming invaded with the dreaded rhododendrons. It will be interesting to see how they develop it further with plantings. P1000306P1000305P1000311P1000310

Across the way, as I walk down the manicured lane, Bleasdale Tower, built in the early 19th century sits at the base of the fells. The sun is not quite making an appearance, but the temperature is high for almost November. There is not a drop of wind and all is silence as I stroll up towards the Tower. Well not quite because a delivery van keeps passing backwards and forwards looking for some address.  It won’t be easy out here when the post code covers a vast area. A lady dog walker helps him out – hopefully as he speeds past me to the remotest of houses. P1000308


I walk on past the buildings that at one time in the C19th served as a Reformatory School for Preston.   North Lancashire Reformatory for Boys, Bleasdale, near Garstang, Lancashire (childrenshomes.org.uk)  P1000314

The lady with the dog catches me up as I’m taking photographs of stone walls. I’m reading a book by Angus Winchester all about Dry Stone Walls, recommended by Walking Away,  and I’m keen to put it into practice. I would hazard a guess that these walls are mid C19th when the estate was being established. Her dog photo bombs my picture of an old ‘gate’. P1000315P1000316P1000321P1000323P1000325

The lady lives in a property on the estate and tells me she was born at Vicarage Farm along the way. That brings back memories of my attending that house in the middle of the night, when GPs did home visits. I’m talking about the late 70s or early 80s. She recalls her mother telling her of an occasion requesting a visit to her ailing aunt in this remote farm and the doctor saying put on all your lights, and I’ll be able to find you. That was probably me. What a small world.

She talks of living out here and attending the local school and church. The school is now closed, but the church, St Eadmer, is open and has a service once a month. She disappears into a farm to meet a friend but tells me to look out for the original site of the school marked by some stones along the way.

On the old track, now grassed over, and in my own world I startle to hear a bike bell ringing behind me. A cyclist is taking a shortcut home to Chipping. He dismounts, it’s muddy anyway, and we walk together chatting about all things cycling. I forget to look for the old school foundations after the vicarage, next time. We also pass the diversion to Bleasdale Circle, though I doubt I would have taken it as the fields are so waterlogged. At the little school I take the estate road going west, and he pedals off down the main track. P1000328P1000329P1000330



It is along this stretch of lane are the Glamping pods, Lantern and Larks. They don’t look the most attractive, a cross between a shed and an awning from this vantage point. Turns out they are part of a National Group with other locations. As you can imagine they are not on the cheap side of accommodation, but where is nowadays? In their blurb they talk about the wild life to find in the surrounding area and highlight the Hen Harrier. It is these grouse shooting estates that are responsible for most of the deaths of the Harrier, a mixed message there.P1000335P1000340P1000338

Just past here on the right over the infant Brock is an old packhorse bridge said to have been on the way from the estate properties to the church and school. I would like to know more. Cutting across some fields I’m soon back at the car from there.  P1000341P1000342

Well that has been a very satisfying round.




20231025_114510More of a TripAdvisor review than a walk blog.

You may remember a walk I did a few weeks ago with Mike as a recce for of his group’s outing. Well Wednesday was the appointed day for the real thing, the monthly walk. The car park at the Hare and Hounds, Abbey Village, soon filled up, greetings made and boots were donned. The planned route followed paths through woods around the Roddlesworth Reservoirs. I came along as an extra, although I do know several of the other walkers – there were 24 altogether, oh and two dogs. That sounds an unruly number for the leader, Mike, to keep an eye on.

On the way over he was concerned that the group, who are prone to dawdle whilst they chat, wouldn’t complete the walk in time for the booked lunch; that areas of the way were excessively muddy; was it too steep in parts; would the small pub be up to providing a good meal for group. Getting lost was not an option. At least the weather was a perfect still blue sky day. 

All went well on the walk. Everybody kept up more or less, the dogs were well-behaved. Most people avoided the muddy, but best scenic, section alongside the upper reservoir, I took a few that way and met up with rest a little farther on. Most of the spectacular backdrop to these woods and the significance of the reservoirs was lost on the throng – who needs insights when you are busy chatting? (My original post gives you all that and photos to boot, I didn’t bring my camera today)

Back at the pub the bar was inundated with drink orders from the  couple of dozen arrivals. Credit to the barmaid for efficient and friendly service. Everyone seated, and the food arrived in fairly quick succession, a feat I admire from the chef. All seemed happy with their choices, there was a German slant to the menu as ‘mine host’ hails from there. Two hours passed, and then the crowd dispersed having thanked Mike for his excellent walk. I wonder if any will return to sample and appreciate the beauty of this area in a quieter slower mood. 

My fish and chips were perfect. 




It’s taken two months for my car to be repaired after my stupid reversing accident on August Bank Holiday, https://bowlandclimber.com/2023/08/30/not-my-finest-hour The main problem was not being able to import the parts from the EU, I wonder why. (As an aside, today in the supermarkets there are no tomatoes as we switch from home produced to imported.) My unfortunate accident occurred after I had been cycling along the excellent cycleways out of Lancaster, and not having my estate car the last couple of months has prevented me getting to these ‘off-road’ venues. Cycling around the lanes of Bowland is scary with fast moving traffic and agricultural juggernauts. I nearly got ploughed into by an overtaking driver on the lane where I live a few weeks ago. Hence, I decided to wait until I could get back using my car to take me to safer and flatter cycleways.

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Today was the day. I loaded my bike into the estate and set off to Lancaster, more particularly Halton old station by the Lune. First time out in the repaired car, it was like driving a brand-new car out of the showroom, you know that anxious feeling.  I’m not having much luck with traffic these days. On Saturday my trip out to the Trough of Bowland was blocked by an accident just  before Dunsop Bridge, fortunately I knew the roads from Whitewell to Cow Arc that then had me over the lovely scenic route to Newton that didn’t take me much longer. Today the A6 going North was a nightmare with traffic avoiding the congested M6. But no matter I was parked up at Halton before the  afternoon turned to dusk. How quickly it does so now, it gets worse when the clocks change at the end of the month – that’s the light not the roads (hopefully).

I took it easy, not having been on the bike for a while. The old railway line (Morecambe to Wennington) took me into Lancaster and over the Millennium Bridge to pedal into Morecambe. All very familiar. 

As one arrives at the sea front you have to stop and gaze across Morecambe Bay to the disant Lakeland hills. The stone pier was high and dry today at low tide. Photo stop. And then alongside the Midland Hotel, Art Decor or Streamline Moderne, where people were gathering for lunch in the panoramic dining room. I keep meaning to go in for a no doubt expensive coffee – but I’m usually dressed like a canary when I’m passing on my bike. A dedicated visit is the only way.

The promenade was quieter than usual despite half-term. I don’t understand ice creams on a cold day, fish and chips a far better option taken by many. The site for the Eden Project is fenced off but no sign of any progress, let’s hope they get the finances to go ahead. It looks rather small to me. There was nothing to stop my trip along the coast, I’ve done it so many times. I was soon on the canal towpath and enjoying my sandwich on my favourite bench, the one decorated with a canal motif. The seat was dedicated to someone who had died aged 70, that seems young to me these days.

The ride along the towpath is easy, and I was soon back at the magnificent aqueduct over the Lune. P1000278P1000280






I had an option to visit friends but in view of my last episode and not wanting to push my luck I just headed to the motorway and drove home. The car is safely parked in my drive, not a scratch on it. A quiet day all told.



To misquote Laura Kuenssberg. Morning, come with me. I’m not going to go easy on you, but I’ll be fair. Shall we get on with it? Here we go.

If I have an hour to spare for exercise or some time between rain showers I inevitably end up doing a circuit in a nearby woodland. I’ve been up there  three times this week, no matter the weather, it’s different every time. Far better than walking around the roads or wet fields. It might be worth your while bringing boots or wellies as at this time of year there are some wet areas, nothing serious. Parking is easy, about 10 minutes out of town, some of you may know it.

Through the gate and a track heads straight on into the new plantation. A way through has been created by dog walkers and perhaps myself. It winds between the newly planted deciduous trees and the regrowth of conifers since part of the wood was felled several years ago. It is good to watch the growth year by year of these trees. I do wonder though, without thinning, the conifers may outstrip the planted oaks, beech, birch, mountain ash and hollies. It is the strong oily odours of the conifers that endure as you push your way through.


The bracken is dying off and the heathers a dull brown too. Autumn colour is just starting in the trees. Flowers are replaced by different varieties of fungi, I wish I could identify more of them. There is always bird song up here but the bees and butterflies have gone for the year.P1000234


Onwards the path reaches two isolated, tall, dead trunks from the original forestry. They stand like two sentinels spearing the sky, a good marker for a faint path going right and climbing the hillside, again winding its way between trees. Higher the track is easier to follow now the bracken is dying back and eventually comes out on the rim of a deep quarry, a large hole in the ground, filling up with water at this time of year. Time for a break, look back down over the plantation and the Ribble Valley, check out the quarry for bird life. There are deer up here too.P1000239


Heading back down look out for a right branching path traversing through the new plantation below the sombre remaining Spruce. More twist and turns and one comes to a tumble down wall, evidence of fields before the forest was planted by the water board of the time. A wide track/forest break leads straight on into an ever darkening environment. Death pervades the atmosphere. Yes, these forests were a bleak monoculture aimed solely at timber production. P1000246P1000245

You may find a stone cairn which is the junction for heading back down through the trees, many of which appear dead, to the forest track and greenery. There is a sawn off stump here, and I often place a pebble on it only to find next time it’s gone. ‘Anti cairn’ walkers or some animal in the night. P1000249P1000250

Take a right and follow the wide track, sharing it with a stream which tends to drain along it halfway. At the end there is light as one emerges into the felled plantation. P1000253P1000254P1000256

A swerve  right and then a dink left down the hillside. There are some wet patches along here, but eventually you hop across a ditch and reach the lower path by the brook. This week it has been lively and could be heard long before it was reached. P1000259P1000261

Walk up the slope alongside the brook, again easier now the bracken is dying back. Another wall is met and a bit of a scramble down to a side stream waterfall where a miniature causeway has appeared in recent years. I always add a stone to it when I pass. The flow of water will probably wash them all away this winter. P1000263



For a brief moment you come out onto the open hillside where barn owls quarter at dusk. Higher up alongside the water there has been extensive tree planting. But we don’t go that way, instead we hop across a wall back into the original forest. There are different fungi on this stretch, yellowish ones that are quickly eaten, by slugs? The way onwards is clear but to either side is primeval swamp. The gales of the last couple of years have caused devastation, but it will all rot away given time, wonderful for diversification of the environment. Don’t stray from the path. P1000268P1000270



And then you are back at the road. P1000276

Two kilometres of discovery, reflection and peace.

Take your time and enjoy all it has to offer, it’s good for the soul.

Hope you spot something new and maybe go around the other way next time – it’s different.



Following on from the unexpected meeting with Bruno the other day I had a surprise of a different sort today.

The approaching storm Babet seems to be passing us by. Yes it is windy, but the rain forecast has gone elsewhere leaving a sunny morning. A good opportunity to get up to Dunsop Bridge and have a better look at The Trough of Bowland Quarry which I’m supposed to be assessing for an upcoming new guide book to Lancashire climbing. I had a brief look in back at the end of July, but there were Peregrines about and the high bracken made exploration impossible.

The roads are quiet, and I enjoy the ride out through the Hodder valley and into the jaws of the Trough road. P1020492 The quarry is hidden away just before the road starts its winding ascent.  It’s late morning when I park up under the old Sykes Lead mine and the roadside Lime Kiln. The quarry faces west so should be sheltered from the easterly wind. A regular procession of motorcyclists pass me as I walk up the road to the gate.

A faint path leads into the quarry, all is peaceful and yes I’m out of the wind below the 70-foot wall of limestone. I have brought my extra long rope, so I should be able to abseil to the ground on it doubled. The bracken is dying back, and I can make my way up the right-hand side. It is steep, and I’m out of puff by the time I’m at the top. I’m concerned about where I can abseil from, the ground slopes steeply down to the top rim of the rock. I seem to remember from years ago trees above the main part but some of these have gone, and I’m limited to the far right side of the quarry. Being extra careful on the steep slope a solid birch tree is selected well away from the edge and using a sling around it I am able to anchor my rope. Gingerly I lower myself to the edge and peer over, my double rope makes the ground when I toss it down, that’s a relief. I should have had a photo looking down for those of you with a tender disposition.

I start to lower carefully as the top rocks are loose in . Before I toss any loose stuff down I bring my ropes back up out of the way, not wanting them damaged by falling rocks. One of the climbs here is called Guillotine, on the first ascent a dislodged rock cut through the climbers rope – not what you want to happen. I am starting to enjoy myself and the rock is generally sound. There is some good climbing here. I clear away a few saplings from some of the ledges as I come down, but this is just a preliminary inspection before deciding whether it would be worth the effort of a proper clean – yes we climbers are a bit obsessed. After some lunch I will go back up and have a closer look. On the photo, if you enlarge it, you can see my rope coming down just right of centre. 20231018_124750

As I am reaching the bottom I hear vehicles ascending a track on the fell on the opposite side of the road from the quarry. Strange. I thought I had heard voices up above me a little while earlier. Was I going to get challenged as to my right to be in there in the first place? By now there is a quite a crowd gathering across the way, and worryingly they all are carrying guns. The penny drops, and I realise I’m in the middle of a shoot. The beaters are coming across the fell above me and the guns are waiting to fire at whatever prey they are after, hopefully not me in the middle.

Time to get out of the firing line, I don’t know whether they can see me. Pull the rope down quickly, but no it keeps jamming. No shooting yet. Eventually I can just shove the rope into my sac and set off to walk out. They can see me now. I can vaguely hear them discussing me and expect a reprimand when I reach the road. But no they all seem friendly and wonder what I was doing in there, I apologise for getting in the way, but they don’t seem concerned as they are now banging away at birds flying over them. It gets very noisy. I try to take a video of the commotion, but it is difficult to anticipate when the birds will appear and the firings start.

Back at the car, now surrounded by 4X4s.  I talk to a man involved with the shoot – he is actually the caterer for their slap-up meal later. He tells me they are partridges and this is a sporting shoot as they fly so fast. Maybe only one in ten bite the dust, as opposed to grouse shooting when every two or three are shot. The shoot releases over three thousand partridges on this fell alone every year for the ‘sport’ – can you believe it. I bite my lip, I’m not as strong protestor as Greta Thunberg and I feel intimidated by all the guns. I do try to get a gentle dig in about whether they are still using lead shot, he is evasive with his answer and explains that most aren’t for consumption as there is little meat on them!

So it’s all for fun, as if I didn’t know it.

I’ll stick to enjoying the countryside in my own way and will be back in the quarry another day, but perhaps not on a Wednesday.



In these dark days as Israel sets out to destroy Gaza and its poor unfortunate Palestinian people some light relief is needed. ( I hope I won’t get arrested for that particularly accurate piece of free speech)  Along comes Bruno, a loveable French eccentric cycling around Europe, indeed the world given a chance.

I don’t know Bruno but am about to come face to face with his formidable Gallic presence.

A mysterious morning phonecall from Mike says he has a roving cyclist in his drive whom I might be interested in meeting, come around. Could be one of my passing acquaintances I think and off I go. There in the drive is this man and his touring bike with attached trailer, quite a common site on the lanes of Britain. I have met many an interesting European on the roads and have been amazed at their tenacity, endurance and sociability. I suppose I did it once.

The story so far – he is cycling along Lancashire’s quiet country lanes when, probably from the hawthorn hedge cutters, one of the wheels on his trailer deflates. It is surprising how quickly that slows you down. He pulls into my friend’s drive and asks for a bucket of water to diagnose the source of his puncture. Their combined efforts haven’t sorted out the problem, repair plasters haven’t stopped the leakage. 20231016_121606

There is still a leak from the side of the repair. Despite this Bruno is happy to talk at length about his exploits and the many previous and future destinations on his travels. He is keen to show us extracts from radio and TV appearances in Europe and other countries. His broken English and our wrecked French leads to some amusing conversation. When I took out my phone for a photo of the ever increasingly comic situation he demanded a video of his proposed next visit to the USA for YouTube. From what we can gather he had crossed America coast to coast on a couple of occasions. He has been on the road for 14 years – sleeping in barns if possible – hard to believe. He had a map in one of the many pockets on the bike to show us his travels. By now most of his worldly belongings are spread out on the drive but no progress  is made on the puncture. 20231016_121907

Mike goes off to phone Halford’s to see if they have this small size 22 inch tube in stock. He is met with directions to their website for what’s in stock – no luck there. I would have happily driven Bruno and his tube down there for a replacement.

Having reinstated the tube into the tyre with difficulty it still deflates, as expected. I tried. Meanwhile, Bruno, to reinforce his experience as a global adventurer, shows us all the food he carries as well as his Stetson hat ready for his USA visit. Gregarious to a fault.20231016_122652

Plan B. Another friend and his wife live around the corner, they are keen cyclists and work from home so should be in. I feel I can ask their help – that’s what friends are for. “This is Bruno”  holding his inner tube, I explain  “he is going around the world but has a puncture.”  Jonathon blinks but rises to the challenge and takes us into his garage, aka  bike shed. Michelle appears and after a chorus or two of ‘Michelle my Belle’ we get down to business. Jonathon dares rip the old patch from the inner tube. A feat I had resisted In case I accidentally inflicted Bruno onto Mike’s hospitality for the night. Michelle appears with a coffee, “pas de lait, mais six sucre s’il vous plaît“. As a perfect hostess there are three shortbreads and two mini chocolate Swiss rolls on the tray. As Jonathon and I discuss the best way to repair the puncture the shortbreads are dunked and quickly eaten. I didn’t have the French for ‘dunked’ but I think he understood as the Swiss rolls disappeared into one of his many pockets.

Back to Mike’s, who has wisely had a sandwich in our absence. In the drive is the shipwrecked bike trailer. Renewed energy and determination with some brute force saw the inner tube back into the tyre and back onto the trailer. J’espere c’est bon. 20231016_140752

It takes some time before Bruno packs up all his possessions in what to me appear flimsy polythene bags. 20231016_142146

Much later we see him off on the quieter way and perhaps with some relief onwards to Scotland, but I fear for his health as the temperatures drop. Bon courage. 20231016_142317 20231016_142406

Let me know if you come across him. You can find him on YouTube.

We have been into poetry recently and Eunice, a fellow blogger, has come up with this lovely effort. Thanks.

BC got a phone call from Mike
Who said “There’s this guy with a bike
In my drive, with a puncture
And just at this juncture
He’s in quite a bit of a stew”

So BC drove himself round to Mike’s
To offer some help with the bike
But the patched up repair
Was still leaking air
And the language was turning quite blue.

A phone call to Halford’s ensued
But they couldn’t supply the right tube
So BC rang a friend
In the hope he could mend
The puncture, which they couldn’t do.

With coffee and cakes from Michelle
And a bit of a sing-song as well
A solution was made
On the best way to aid
Poor Bruno, without more ado.

The tube was put back on the bike
With some brute force from BC and Mike,
Then back on the road
Went Bruno with load
And they waved him off into the blue.


And in honour of Michelle, my friends, Bruno, France and the day in general.



Simon Armitage’s Stanza Stones – Mist.

We, Clare, JD and I, are well on schedule for our quest to visit the final Stanza Stone for today. After the Snow and Rain along comes the Mist.

The scenery changes on our onward Northern drive, deep wooded valleys crowded with solid stone terraced mill houses.  Cragg Vale, Mytholmroyd (birthplace of Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate 1983 – 2008) Hebden Bridge, Pecket Well. We start dropping off the moor into Oxenhope when a steep narrow lane brings us back into the hills looking for somewhere to park under Nab Hill.


A muddy track leaves the lane, we check GPS that it is the correct one, a Stanza Stone waymark is soon noticed. Passing small quarries, no soaring climbing faces here, the rock is softer and splits into thin slabs possibly to be used as stone roof tiles common in Yorkshire at the time. We are on the lookout for a larger quarry on the right and then a stone cairn. Wind turbines look down on our wanderings. The problem is that there are several piles of stones on the edge of the moor, when is a pile of stones or a stone shelter a cairn? I dismiss the first stones and head farther towards an obvious larger cairn, ignoring smaller ones on the way. There is doubt in the team. The clue we have is to drop below the cairn to find slabs of rock. Nothing obvious here, how far down the slope should we go? We repeat the process under the other ‘cairns’. JD wanders off to pinpoint the OS map’s indication of the stone with his GPS, that doesn’t help. Clare scouts the lower ground, there are lots of slabby rocks about. I ponder that not being able to find the Mist Stone in the mist would be ironic, we are having difficulty on a perfect day. At last back at the first pile of stones we discover the correct slabs. P1000198P1000218



The story goes that one slab was lifted in situ for Pip Hall to carve, it had a hairline crack down the centre and as the stone was moved it split, much to the consternation of the workmen. Undaunted Pip carved each one independently to later place them together, so that the lines hopefully read as one. (The picture of the split comes from their book) One has to give some thought to this lady out on the moor in all weathers carving away. These slabs are of a softer grit than the ones previously visited, Snow and Rain, and the lettering paler. Simon’s poem is equally evocative though, looking out over the valleys and moors where the Bronte Sisters once roamed for inspiration. Lichens are spreading out over the letterings giving them a more ancient look than their mere 12 years – come back in another 12 years. Someone’s ashes are scattered around and will slowly be blown across the moor or crushed underfoot.


The split slab back in 2011 before repositioning.  



Who does it mourn? What does it mean, such
nearness, gathering here on high ground
while your back was turned, drawing its
net curtains around?

Featureless silver screen, mist
is water in its ghost state, all inwardness,
holding its milky breath, veiling the pulsing machines
of great cities under your feet, walling you
into these moments, into this anti-garden
of gritstone and peat.

Given time the edge of
your being will seep into its fibreless fur;
You are lost, adrift in hung water
and blurred air, but you are here.

The three Stanza Stones we have visited so far have exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return with our team to the Ilkley Area, home of the Literature Festival where the idea was born, to discover the remaining three, Dew, Puddle and Beck. Wouldn’t it be great to find the fabled seventh, but I suspect that will only appear to an alert walker somewhere on the Stanza Stone Trail.


My navigation skills have improved for the drive home, – these are roads I know well up above Wycoller. We even have time to stop off to look at one of East Lancashire’s  Panopticons, The Atom. Both a shelter and a viewing point over the valley and to Pendle Hill. I am sure from memory that when it was first installed there was a stainless steel atom in the centre of the ‘Molecule’ – no sign of it now.

(The other three are Colourfields in Blackburn, The Singing Ringing Tree above Burnley and The Halo above Rossendale.) P1000231


The day couldn’t have gone better. Sunshine, excellent company and three poems found and enjoyed.



Simon Armitage’s Stanza Stones – Rain.

15 miles of scenic driving on open moorland roads and then through densely knit and gritty Pennine communities brought us to the White House Inn on the road out of Rochdale. We have just come from Marsden where up in Pule Hill quarry we found and admired our first Stanza Stone, Snow, a water themed poem by Simon Armitage skilfully inscribed by Pip Hall. This is one of six, or maybe even seven, scattered on the rugged Pennine Watershed between Marsden and Ilkley. There is a 45-mile walking trail between them all, but we have chosen to use the car and visit them individually. We have resisted the idea of visiting each stone according to the weather depicted. Let’s enjoy today’s sunshine.

The White House is an iconic moorland inn situated where the Pennine Way crosses from the peaty horrors of the Peak District peat to the pleasanter Yorkshire Dales. Many long distance walkers have been known to give in here. Most people today are either enjoying lunch in the pub or doing short walks from the road, as are we. CaptureStanza 2

The Pennine Way is followed alongside an aqueduct connecting several reservoirs. All level walking. I camped along here once with my young son on a Lancashire Borders Walk. Sensibly we had eaten well in the pub beforehand and only needed water for a brew. The brown peaty solution didn’t need a tea bag, today my tea was already brewed safely in my flask along with a picnic lunch.1qhsxyqg


A miniature arch took us over the water and into Cow’s Mouth Quarry. This is where I become boring once more as I try and trace routes climbed way in the past. They are mainly slabs, with often little protection available, needing a steady head. Nowadays with bouldering mats the picture has become blurred between a roped route and a high ball boulder problem. P1000189


But I’m not here to climb today, I’m with Clare and JD looking for the second of Simon Armitage’s Stanza Poems – Rain. This one is easy to spot being at the base of a rock face right by the path. Pip had a lovely canvas to write on, but advice was first taken from climbers so that no footholds were destroyed, or new ones created. Pip’s carving seems more pronounced than on Snow back at Pule Hill, this rock, being more compact, maybe helping. The letters are imbued with gold.  We read aloud the poem marvelling at Simon’s turn of phrase. P1000181



Again here is the poem in case you can’t make it out in the pictures.


Be glad of these freshwater tears,
Each pearled droplet some salty old sea-bullet
Air-lifted out of the waves, then laundered and sieved, recast as a soft bead and returned.
And no matter how much it strafes or sheets, it is no mean feat to catch one raindrop clean in the mouth,
To take one drop on the tongue, tasting cloud pollen, grain of the heavens, raw sky.
Let it teem, up here where the front of the mind distils the brunt of the world.

We find a sheltered spot for lunch. I forget to take a picture of the extensive views across the moors with distant reservoirs, wind farms and mill chimneys. I am on too much on a high from the poetry – tasting cloud pollen. We wander back with shared tales of moorland adventures.

Fellow us farther on our poetry quest.



Simon Armitage’s Stanza Stones – Snow.

Simon Armitage is steeped in Pennine Grit. Brought up in West Yorkshire and living in Marsden in particular, his works have been influenced by the rich heritage of the area. I have been reading a few of his books and poems recently and feel an affinity to his working class background. When you delve deeper you realise the profound and original intellect of the man and his ever widening focus. That’s why he is Poet Laureate.

My friend JD, who has featured many times in these posts, told me about some of Simon’s readings on the radio, such as his journey as a modern day troubadour down the Pennine Way, and more interestingly his series of poems carved and brought to life in the rocks of the high Pennines. The Stanza Poems, six poems on the theme of water in various forms: Snow, Rain, Dew, Puddle,Mist and Beck,  a collaboration between himself, Pip Hall the stone carver, and local expert Tom Lonsdale, a landscape architect. Those looking hard enough might stumble across a seventh Stanza Stone, a secret stone left in an unnamed location within the Watershed area, waiting to be discovered and read. As far as I know nobody has.

I bought the book and was immediately fascinated. Stanza Stones a book by Simon Armitage, Pip Hall, and Tom Lonsdale. (bookshop.org)

What they have produced is truly magical and the insights of the protagonists brought to life in the book. I take my hat off to the literacy skill of Simon but equally so to the dedication and art of Pip the sculptress which will be borne out in our efforts to locate the stones.

A fairly tough trail, considering the moorland terrain, of 50 miles or so has been worked out between the carved stones from Marsden in the south to Ilkley farther north. Suffice to  say JD and I never got around to walking it, mainly because I thought some of the 20-mile days across rough moorland with no bed at the end was too much for me to contemplate. I happily compromise and suggest a motorised raid to the individual stones. The idea catches fire and in a conversation with the ‘Slate Poem Lady of Longridge Fell’ (another story enacted in my lockdown posts) we have a willing and knowledgable accomplice. Welcome aboard Clare, one of her slate poems in her garden says it all.


Messenger. Mary Oliver.

Cometh the day cometh the hour. We are off to Marsden with a fair forecast. I’m afraid to say my navigational skills fell short of the sat nav lady whom I chose to ignore. We came at the first site in a round about way, but the moorland scenery and deserted roads were worth it. Mutterings from the driver and the other passenger who kept well clear of any navigational mistakes. CaptureStanza 1

An unpretentious lay-by below Pule Hill, west of Marsden, is our starting point. The steaming brick ventilation shafts of the Manchester to Huddersfield railway are obvious above us on the hillside. As well as the railway down there somewhere the narrow Huddersfield Canal goes through the Standedge Tunnel, the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in Great Britain. Their combined  history is worth a read, it’s a lot more complicated than you think. Above all that are the ramparts of Pule Hill quarry and rocky edge on the skyline. Fortunately for us the original quarry incline is still intact giving an easy climb up into the workings. Memories of plodding up here with ropes and gear for a day’s climbing come flooding back, and I feel a quickening in my step. We are impressed with the amount of quality stone work just giving access to the quarries. What a substantial industry of men must have worked away on these slopes. P1000147


I’m distracted by the quarry rock faces I have ascended in the past whilst the other two go off in search of the poems engraved in stone. P1000168


Nature’s art.


At the far end of the quarry are two large blocks built into the wall and there is our first poem laid out in front of us, letters carved into the two stones bringing out the colours of the rock from those past quarrying days. We trace with our fingers across the rock surface. Already after 13 years the patina is changing, and green lichens are crossing the letters, what will another decade bring. There is already some slight damage caused by man. P1000167P1000160


Here is the poem transcribed as it is difficult, but not impossible if enlarged, to read in the photos. The stanzas cross between the two stones.


The sky has delivered its blank missive. The moor in coma.                                   

Snow, like water asleep, a coded muteness to baffle all noise, to stall movement, still time.

What can it mean that colourless water can dream such depth of white?             

We should make the most of the light.                                                                           

Stars snag on its crystal points. The odd, unnatural pheasant struts and slides.

Snow, snow, snow is how the snow speaks, is how its clean page reads.

Then it wakes, and thaws, and weeps.     S A.

Before we leave, we discover a beautifully constructed curving wall seat inscribed with ‘Ilkley 45 1/4 miles’ which is the distance to the last stone via the trail, thankfully we have the car to take us onwards.P1000170P1000169

We skip happily down that incline, pleased to find the first stone and captivated by the scenery and the poem it now holds. Let it snow.P1000176




There aren’t many takers.  At 285m Scout Hill is the 1795th tallest in England. http://www.themountainguide.co.uk.  Not exactly inspiring. But I know a hill when I see one and this one was a prominent feature on the northern horizon when we were last up on Hutton Roof. It can be seen towering, or more accurately peeping, over Farleton Fell in the photo below taken on that day. I did have to look it up later to identify it as Scout Hill The seed was sown.P1010191

Encouraged by last week’s walk with Sir Hugh I plotted an easy route in the Lupton area to include Scout Hill. He thinks he has been up it before, and although I fully believe him details are very vague. He is keen to test his improving health by another easy ascent, surely it can’t make my hip any worse.

Parking is complicated by road works, water pipe installations. It takes me some time to orientate myself amongst the little lanes and the busy A65 flying past with lay-bys full of cars. By then we are through lush green fields and above the lively Lupton Beck. Farleton Fell is there above us, and it remains that way all day. Sir Hugh recognises the lovely footbridge over the waters, and we come out by the Plough pub. What I thought would be an easy ramble by the beck took us much longer than envisaged. We haven’t come far, and perhaps we should have retired to the pub for lunch. P1000083P1000081P1000087P1000088P1000100P1000104

Now up the lane to Crabtree Farm, quite steep in parts. They have diversified into clay pigeon shooting and are busy constructing a holiday park with those ubiquitous Gypsy Caravans, more like road menders huts quips Sir Hugh when he gets his breath back from the ascent. On we go, quite steep in parts. My hip is hurting, but I don’t say anything, there is no turning back. It is a delightful lane.


Crabtree Lane – Scout Hill is ahead with a tree near the hidden summit.


Once in the open we are on the slopes of Scout Hill, but there is no sight of its summit Trig. It won’t take us long after leaving the wallside right of way, climbing through the gorse to reach the summit. Should I just nip up and down quickly leaving Sir Hugh down here? No he is having none of that. Should I just let him nip up and down whilst I study the abundant fungi? We plod on. It is a strange fell with bits of ancient walls and little rivulets appearing from nowhere. There is still no sign of the summit, there are supposed to be communication masts up there. It is getting serious when compass bearings are taken and followed.P1000112P1000115


Not there yet.




P1000121 P1000122

But what’s this? Another wall and descent between us and our rapidly receding trig point. I’m secretly hoping we can’t get across, and we can call the whole thing off. P1000124


But no, we can squeeze through a gated gap and the summit is ours. It turns out to be a good viewpoint particularly to the hills to the east – Gragareth et al.  If only it was a bit brighter. The Lakes are in clag, and we have some debate as to which is Arnside Knott, Sir Hugh’s local fell. The communication towers are largely ignored. P1000128P1000131


We squeeze back through the gate and head towards a prominent stone. Standing or not? A good lunch spot nonetheless.


Back on the right of way we waste no time abandoning it for an attractive path which at the far end proclaims ‘Private No Right of Way’. We are now on metalled lanes wandering across the hillsides, some barely drivable and going we know not where. It’s all downhill from here. Coming across the first person we have seen all day he promptly turns around and walks past us with a brief nod. It’s a strange area. Farelton Fell looms ahead of us.  I am glad when the roadworks come into sight and the little car is there. P1000140


Felt I had bitten off more than I could happily chew today, just don’t always believe the map, the summit may have moved.

Today was tagged under The Lake District and nearby Lancashire, need a new tag for Cumbria whose borders wander around in this area.

Sir Hugh’s  post will appear in due course.


CaptureScout Hill



               Anybody can make history. The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.                                                                                                            Misquoting Oscar Wilde.

Storm Agnes is coming, batten down the hatches. But our little group complete the short morning walk around Longridge before the rain arrives. We are safely in The Alston eating lunch as the trees begin to sway – not a day to be out and about. CaptureAlston Arms.

When I say our group I’m including myself into their group who meet once a month for a sociable walk of historical interest. I was out the last two weekends researching possible future walks with one of the group’s regulars for when it is his turn to lead. I am invited along today as a ‘guest’ mainly because the walk is in Longridge itself and comes past my house.

It’s a year or so since I walked with them, so I had to reacquaint myself with names and faces in the car park of The Alston. I’m not a group walker at the best of times, but they are a friendly lot, and selfishly a short walk today suited my diminishing exercise needs. There is some debate amongst the flock as to the needs of waterproofs and boots, faffing is increased disproportionally with the number of people involved.

Our leader has us away relatively promptly – Storm Agnes is making an appearance at noon, we need to get a move on. He, our leader, has a job on keeping the attention of the 20 or so walkers. But he is an ex-teacher, including having taught my children, so he keeps us in order. He has lots to tell us of the history of the area and has done his research thoroughly. He starts by quoting Oscar Wilde so that any later errors may be excused.

Moving on past my house, proudly illustrated in the header photo, we come across a series of interesting sites scattered around the village. The attention of the group fades somewhat as we progress. Our passage creates mild panic on the roads, think Moses parting the seas, and obstructions on the pavements, most passers-by stand aside to our onslaught.

The Alston Arms; Old Rib Farmhouse; Green Nook; the railway to Grimsargh; Pinfold Lane; Reservoirs; St. Lawrence’s; war memorials; the Old Station; mills; various pubs and bustling Berry Lane all play a part.

I don’t risk my newly repaired camera to the elements today, so you will have to be content with these sepia postcards of Berry Lane and The Old Rib.


The OLd Rib.1

Nowadays with the spider’s web, it is easy to find their histories elsewhere if you are interested, either true or rewritten as Oscar would say. Anyhow, thanks for having me along.


It seems superfluous to include a map but keeping to my usual habit here is our route, a mere four miles but full of history.

Jo's Longridge




It’s a while since I’ve given you some music –

This song was in my mind, but I couldn’t remember where it came from – of course it is an Irving Berlin number, A Couple of Swells, from Easter Parade performed originally by Fred Astaire and Judy Garland way back in 1948. 

So we’ll walk up the avenue
Yes we’ll walk up the avenue
And to walk up the avenue’s what we like

They were probably singing about 5th Avenue, New York, but I have the more humble Avenue in Hurst Green as my walk today. 

The morning was one of those frustrating ones, all apparently too common in these days of modern technology. Attempted phone calls and online machinations. Car.  insurance first, last year I paid £371 and this year they are quoting £832. Time for a change. Money Supermarket seemed easier to navigate than the popular Confused.com once you have all your information to hand. Prices came up from £450, I settled for £480 with the Bank of Scotland. Insurance is a minefield. I still need to ensure the original insurers don’t automatically charge my card – can’t get through on the phone.

On the subject of insurance my car is still away being repaired after my unfortunate run in with a wall. They said it would be ready last week, no word from them. After half an hour on the phone line I gave up.

Also, I’m still trying to ensure that repairs to my camera are carried out under the guarantee. My telephone calls to the shop are all answered by different personnel, and they never get back to me. My random poor pictures today are therefore from my ageing phone.

By now it is lunchtime and the sun is shining. Time for a short walk to keep my legs going. Bouldering is out of the question, my left arm is sore as hell from the Covid jab yesterday and my right arm equally so from the flu jab. Was it wise to have them both at the same time? The ‘Avenue’ walk appeared out of the depths of my mind. It would be on good surfaces and not too long or steep, I’m taking my physio’s advice and moderating my exercise. 

The Avenue starts in Hurst Green and goes all the way to Stonyhurst College. CaptureHurst Green

Depressingly the Bailey Arms pub is still closed but “open for refurbishment if a new licensee can be found”, an all too familiar story. There used to be three pubs in the village in recent memory but only the Shireburn Arms is still trading in Tolkien territory. DSC00569

I walk up the Avenue, past little cottages, past the famous Almshouses, through Stonyhurst’s gates, past the spooky graveyard and the even spookier Madonna statue, Our Lady of the Avenue. I place a foot on Cromwell’s Stone and cast my eyes down the continuing Avenue all the way to the college itself. There is a lot of history around these parts, much of it covered in my many other posts on the area. DSC00514DSC00515DSC00521DSC00523

Are you still singing that song, I am?

At one time you could walk the full length of the Avenue past the fish ponds up to the college facade. Now there are closed gates and notices to make you aware there is no right of way, fair enough, but after walking up the road past the golf course towards Longridge Fell you can take advantage of a Public Path into the grounds and then directly across that very facade. Not the grandest of entrances but us commoners will have to make do. DSC00526DSC00535

They don’t like you taking photographs in the grounds, child protection explained the security guard the last time I was here. They can’t begrudge a photo of the exquisite St. Peter’s Church, not a child in sight. Seriously though they have probably some children boarding from very rich foreign countries, so security must be a nightmare. DSC00537

I could have taken the path down through the fields past the clay pigeon shooting range, you have to ring a bell before continuing and being shot, but I wanted to keep my feet dry and avoid the slippery slopes, we have had a lot of rain if it hasn’t escaped your notice. So on I go past the observatory and gardens using the farm track. Groundsman are mowing which must be an almost continuos ongoing task  on the estate to keep it up to scratch.

Round the back well out of view are a couple of soccer pitches and then the wonderfully positioned cricket square with its iconic brick pavilion and views over the Ribble Valley and Pendle. DSC00555DSC00557DSC00562

I come out past more estate cottages to the busy Whalley Road. I could have carried on across and down to the river to join the Tolkien Trail back to Hurst Green but as I said I wanted to keep my boots clean. Having already established from Google Earth that there was a continuous footway beside the road back to the village that is what I follow.

The Shireburn Arms is open, now part of a group, James’ Places which seems to be the way these rural inns can survive. Opposite is the village green with three interesting crosses, but you will have to search for the oldest, have a look here.

A pleasant afternoon stroll on the Avenue. 

And for a contrast if you like rocksteady – 



You will have noticed we are moving from Summer to Autumn, although the seasons are not what they were. Heavy rain forecast for today and yes it arrived this morning. Soup and bread for lunch which will become the norm from now on, ditching the salads. I make lots of nutritious soups from cheap, out of date vegetables, from the supermarket and my freezer is full of them.

Come early afternoon it looks brighter. From my house I can view the westerlies coming in over the Fylde plain. Should be OK for an hour or so. I walk down past the cricket ground watching the clouds scudding across Fairsnape. It feels quite warm in the sunshine. 20230918_145655

Up Mile Lane (it is nowhere near a mile) meeting a few dog walkers on the way. We are all trying to dodge the showers. The spire of our village’s St. Wilfred’s Church always prominent on the horizon.20230918_151226

My mood is improving with every few more moments of sunshine. Exercise and sunshine are great healers, especially as we enter the darker months. By the time I pass through the park into the village I’m positively humming. Time to pop into our local Sainsbury’s for some more spinach destined for the freezer as soup. That’s nearly three miles under my belt before the next band of rain. Let’s hope tomorrow will give some breaks in the weather.

Now have I taken any photos on my phone?



Following on from my last post which described a half aborted climbing session, today we now have a walk that didn’t quite work out. I’m on a losing streak. Again I’m with Mike reconnoitring for walks he could lead with his monthly walking group.

Remember the stipulations  “should start at a place with toilets, not too much rough ascent, between three and four miles, the fewer stiles the better and finishing at a pub for lunch”  He thought he had found one in a book of short walks in Lancashire, I didn’t catch the title. This time on the outskirts of Blackburn, Pleasington in fact, incorporating Wainwright’s Memorial on Billinge Hill and the popular Witton Country Park. Sounded promising when he invited me to join him.

Things didn’t go well when we struggled to park near the Railway Inn, yes there is a station here for commuting into Preston or Blackburn. We eventually settled on roadside parking up the lane which wouldn’t be ideal. Shame that the nearby Butler’s Arms is closed. We set off, walking up the lane past the impressive Pleasington Priory. Pleasington Priory – Wikipedia We don’t even think to have a look inside, if it is open. DSC00478

Up a smaller lane past expensive building conversions to the gates of the Old Hall. DSC00483

A track goes left here, and we soon come to our next problem, a loose eroded bank leading to an awkward stile. Probably no go for those of his group not into mountaineering. I didn’t think to take a photo of the obstacle.

A wandering route through rough fields brings us out onto a lane I recognise from previous Witton Weaver Walks which we now follow up to the Yellow Hills, named from the abundant gorse that blooms up here – but not in September it seems. There are always a few people up here because of Wainwright’s Memorial plaque, a toposcope with a rather poor impression of Alfred in the centre. We gaze in all directions, but distant views are hazy, nevertheless a wonderful lookout. This ascent would have been better in reverse with the vista in front of you. Niggly. DSC00490

I never feel at ease through the next open field which always has cows and occasionally a bull. Today they all seemed very docile, perhaps it’s just my fears.

DSC00492Entering the woods of Billinge Hill we pay particular attention to the guide’s directions. There are paths everywhere up here, some I recognise, but mainly I am ‘lost’ blundering about in a hopeful direction. Using a bit of creative thinking we follow the steep and slippery paths down alonside a ravine. Mike is not happy, any of his group who may have made it this far would be now struggling. DSC00485DSC00493DSC00494DSC00497

We in turn struggle down to enter Witton Park and civilisation. Ice cream vans, car parks, sports pitches, dog walkers. DSC00498

We are lucky to have this rural expanse open to all on the edge of a major town. Witton Country Park covers 480 acres of countryside with pretty picnic spots, walks, nature trails, play areas, sports pitches and a visitor centre. The estate was once owned by the Feildens, a wealthy textile family, who built and lived in Witton House from 1800 and created the park at the same time. From 1900 the house was empty for long periods and during both world wars the house and estate were used by the army. Dry-rot set in. Witton House was demolished in 1952, after being sold to Blackburn Corporation in 1946 along with the estate. DSC00504

We join the crowds and follow the sluggish River Darwen down the valley to Butler’s Bridge. Now on a surprisingly busy road ahead are the gates leading to Pleasington Cemetery.  I’ve never ventured farther, but the notice board shows a vast complex of burial grounds. DSC00502

We divert to continue into the woods and up a sunken lane which eventually is captured by barbed wire into a most unfriendly narrow walkway back to the priory. DSC00508DSC00509

We have had 4 miles of exercise through an interesting environment. It took us for some reason three hours and Mike has ruled it out from his future itineraries.

Last year I did a similar, but better balanced walk , from Cicerone’s Walks In Lancashire, an excellent selection, which also took in Hoghton Bottoms in a seven-mile circuit.

Back to the drawing board for Mike.


 Witton (2)




I had arranged to meet Rod for a few climbs up at Kemple End, the quarry at the far end of Longridge Fell. Originally I had suggested it to him as a good option for afternoon shade in our mini heatwave last week. That didn’t seem to work out, so we found ourselves up there this morning instead – a good option for morning sun.

Autumn was in the air and the grass had a heavy dew, but the bracken was dying back which made access along the quarry rim somewhat easier. We backed up the top belays on the way in and scrambled down to the base. The rock was in perfect condition despite recent rain. 


I have been asked to rewrite the section on Kemple for the up-and-coming, maybe in a couple of years, latest Lancashire climbing  guide book. (On my bookshelves I have about five or six previous editions going back decades, all a little dog-eared) Hence, I was wanting Rod to re-climb a few routes to get an overall grade consensus, particularly where there has been some recent rock re-arrangements. Another climber’assessment can clarify your own jaundiced view.

I thought Rod’s sack looked rather small, I’d brought the rope and gear, and sure enough when he delved into it no rock shoes or harness came out. Probably on the kitchen table back home, it’s easily done. No problem I contrived a makeshift harness, and he thought he could manage in his stiff hiking boots. After all we had started our climbing days in ordinary boots, dedicated rock shoes had only just started to appear on the market, from France originally. My climbing shoes would most likely not have fit anyhow.

The first climb, Ribbled, went well, even I managed it with my dodgy ligaments confirming its easyish HVD grade. Birdy Brow has lost its flake and is no longer feasible, so we put a rope down Bird on the Wing, its replacement. This has a few reachy starting moves made worse by Rod’s boots, but he persevered and got up thinking it about VS 4c.

We sit and have a break in the sun, an owl is hooting somewhere in the hidden quarry bowl. There is the hum of bees around the brambles and heather. All very peaceful. All part of the climbing day.

Then over to Great Expectations, one of my favourites here. Another steep start brings you to a shallow sloping ledge in the middle of the wall, use this to somehow make farther progress. It wasn’t to be today. Rod’s boots skidding on the blank wall where rock boots would have just smeared. A potentially good day’s climbing marred by the wrong boots.


                             Not so ‘Great Expectations’ in big boots.