I wouldn’t normally dream of coming to Blackpool on a Bank Holiday Monday. Perhaps Sir Hugh’s recent mouth watering post on ‘fish and chips’ has subliminally decided for me.
There is very little traffic on the motorway, and I am able to park easily at Lytham which means I can start my ride in the opposite direction compared to my choosing the more usual plentiful parking at Fleetwood. I don’t actually reach Fleetwood today, content to turn around at Cleveleys to give a round trip of 30 miles.
There is always a breeze on the coast, and today it was north-westerly, meaning I cycled into it for the first part. No matter how gentle the wind is if you are facing it on a bike you are slowed down. Maybe I should shave my legs and beard to reduce wind resistance. The advantage was on the return leg when I sailed along at a much faster pace.
I didn’t expect really to feast on fish and chips today as I knew the cafés would be closed along with everything else. The Golden Mile – no blaring pop music, no loud bingo calls, no flashing lights to entice you into some dive or other, no ‘Kiss me quick’ hats. No ice cream and definitely no fish and chips. Not a queue in sight. The promenade was virtually empty of people, making cycling a lot less hazardous. Although it is amazing how much space a couple with dogs on long leads can occupy on a wide shared way. I remember a phrase my parents used if they came across an empty or quiet situation where bustle was normally expected. “Someone must have died”
Of course this Bank Holiday wasn’t on my calendar in the first place. Someone must have died.
As I returned to Lytham more people were promenading and visiting the beach (the tide has been out all day) Families enjoying the late summer sunshine. Even the occasional ice cream appeared. You can’t watch TV all day.
[I stop to pick some Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) stems, not to eat though all parts of the plant are edible, but to collect some seeds. I would dearly love to have this bright yellow late flowering plant popping up in my borders as others die away. Once or more likely if, I have germinated some they should self perpetuate. Easy gardening.]
Tomorrow all will be back to normal, and we can start worrying about the state of our Great Britain under a new King and Parliament.
It is that sort of day; no wind, sun shining, rural Lancashire, the bike cruising effortlessly, no traffic, virtually no sounds. What more could you want. I’m on a linear canal ride where time has stood still, almost a parallel universe. The canal takes you along without you realising where you are in relation to familiar roads and settlements. I could be in Rotterdam or anywhere – sorry that is a link to a recent post. But I meet people, interesting people in this parallel universe.
At the start I chat to an elderly cyclist who is setting off on his electric bike admitting it is heavy, and you can’t pedal it if the battery dies on you. He suggests that if you are over eighty then this is for you – well I have a few years of proper pedalling ahead of me. He speeds off and I never catch up.
There was the lady by the swans, they are here every year she says, using the canal towpath as a route to and from her shops. How lucky she is and I think she knew. There were seven cygnets, all strengthening their wings ready for a first flight, enchanting.
I pass, incognito, through Lancaster City at times elevated above the streets and housing. I have a picture in my mind of what would happen if the banks broke. That must be linked to my childhood stories of the little Dutch guy with his thumb in the leaking dam. Lots of the converted canal warehouses are now student accommodations, how lucky are they. There are some iconic canal features along here where the horses could cross from one side of the towpath to the other side without unhitching. I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Now in the countryside I chat to a houseboat owner, probably a former dropout but now elevated in my esteem to an interesting canal dweller. He may have the advantage over the rest of us in our current cost of living crisis. How the worm turns. Drifter.
A dog walker talks of his previous life as a travelling rep. No more motorway hold-ups for him.
The towpath takes me through shady cuttings and open fields. I don’t look at my phone to see where I am, preferring to let things happen. I can’t get lost. A southerner recently moved to these parts is interested in my route, but I have the feeling he won’t be tackling anything more than a gentle walk to the pub. How judgemental is that?
It seems to take an age on rather overgrown and awkward paths, I’m not as agile on the bike as before, talking decades here, and I’m very wary of skidding off the path head first into the canal. I walk some of the way. Picking ripe sweet blackberries was a joy. I was in no rush.
Eventually I reach the junction with the Glasson canal built to link the port of Glasson with Lancaster. And then the railway came. More of that later.
I’m still in that peaceful easy feeling as I continue without meeting a soul through fields towards the coast. It was along here that I witnessed a heron trying to swallow a wriggly eel earlier this year.
Glasson is as busy as ever with motorcyclists and tourists of a certain age, so I head across the bridge to the little shop where I’m in time for one of their freshly baked cheese and onion slices. Sat in the sunshine with a coffee – perfect. It must be high tide as the lock gates to the ocean are open.
I’ve taken a long time to cycle 12 miles to Glasson, what with all the stops and awkward sections, but now it is head down on the old railway, which superceded the canal I’ve just been following. Back into Lancaster and on to Halton Station. That has set me up for autumn and thoughts of trans Pennine trails.
I switch the radio on when I’m in my car, but this time there is no déjà vu link to the Eagles from way back then. Here it is nonetheless. I may have played this before in other contexts, but it is a favourite of mine and perfectly reflected this sunny day’s ride. California dreaming.
I highly recommend this 20 mile off-road circuit, after a short ascent to reach the Lancaster Canal on the period Aqueduct it is flat all the way even if a little rough towards Galgate. The section to Glasson is totally rural and as peaceful as you could wish.
I had an uneventful trip around the Guild Wheel yesterday. I can cycle 20 miles or so without any problem to my knee but can’t walk 4 miles, all to do with weight-bearing. So here I am back at my start, Red Scar, for another muscle strengthening ride. I wouldn’t go anywhere near the motorway system at present, so I’m staying local. The Wheel here takes you along the access road to Preston Crematorium which brings back many sad thoughts of departed friends. I’ve only gone a few hundred yards when ahead of me is a cluster of police cars and ambulances. How can this be on this dead end quiet lane?
A father and daughter were out for a gentle safe ride along the wheel. A stressed inattentive car driver travelling at speed on the wrong side of the road. Result one seriously injured cyclist and one very scared daughter. The dent in the car windscreen said it all. I hope the cyclist is OK.
I know this man walking along the prom, even from the back, it is Peter out with his Thursday walkers. The bad weather has driven them out of the Lakes for a more gentle low level coastal walk from Morecambe to Hest Bank. He is as surprised to see me as I of him. I cycle alongside chatting until we catch up with his mates. He suggests I call and see his wife and him before they go off to Rotterdam next week. The song Rotterdam immediately comes into my head, it is still there. My attempt to sing it is derided, but one of his friends remembers it – The Beautiful South from the 90’s. I ride on to ‘Rotterdam or anywhere’ leaving them to their casual strolling.
I’m on a mission. You may remember my last cycle outing was aborted and ended up with a rapid return to find my phone with credit card lying on the roof of my car, absent-mindedly left there earlier in the day. Today I’m hoping to reach Over Kellet and visit friends.
The girl in the tea van wishes me well and gently reminds me to look after my possessions. It is raining and at the back of my mind is the thought of thunderstorms later in the day which wouldn’t be fun on a bike – I can always abort once more. The thin cycling waterproof (more of a windproof) won’t keep the rain out for long, and I’m already damp as I arrive onto the prom at Morecambe. Where is that famous view across the bay? Hidden in the mist. So head down I cycle on, pausing for the brief encounter mentioned above, and onto the Lancaster Canal at Hest Bank. This was the point of decision, cycle back to Lancaster if the weather was still dubious or head north to Carnforth and the Kellets. I thought I detected some brightness so north it was. This is a grand stretch of canal high above the coastal strip. It was farther to Carnforth than I remembered. The last time I waked along here incidentally was with aforementioned Peter and JD, 2018.
Eventually I leave the canal onto roads and cycle steadily uphill into Over Kellet. I reach my friends’ house just as the next downpour starts – of course they are not in, so I take shelter under their garden umbrella. That is where they find me when they return from the shops and take pity on me with cups of tea and cake, and a good drying round their Aga. I’ve shared many exciting climbing escapades with John in the past until injuries prevented him climbing – but not before he had led the difficult Kipling Groove on Gimmer on his 65th birthday, he only seconded it on his 70th. Two hours later I set forth on delightful undulating lanes in the Limestone country surrounding the Kellets. At one point the road is blocked to cars by a large hedge cutting tractor. I can get by but then spend an anxious time hoping I don’t puncture on all the hawthorn cuttings. Fortunately I escape that fate and drop into Halton to cross the narrow recycled Greyhound Bridge, Penny Bridge to the south bank of the Lune. As is becoming usual mine is the last car in the car park at Halton station.
The day is not over. When I start the engine and switch on the radio the song that is playing is unbelievably Rotterdam. Yes the one I’d tried to sing to Peter earlier in the day. What is the chance of that one song coming up as soon as I listen in? I sit there transfixed with the tune, the lyrics are more pithy than I remember.
Still astonished by the coincidence I take to the motorway but feel I have to divert to visit Peter and his wife to tell them of the spooky Rotterdam connection and wish them a good holiday there. More cups of tea and cake follow. They are very generous with their abundant garden vegetables and I come away with a bunch of fresh produce and more importantly home laid Quail eggs for my breakfast the next day. A ratio of four quails (all yoke) to one hen gives a good scrambled mixture.
Not bad for a day of only 20 miles cycled. I enclose a map to show the delightful lanes around the Kellets. The elevation profile is interesting, a day of two halves.
As I start to write this the rain has finally arrived, but not the thundery downpours forecast, which we badly need. Or at least my garden does, although ‘up north’ we are not as dessicated as ‘down south’.
Trying to make the best of the possibly last good weather I’ve had two contrasting outings at the beginning of September.
The day after my trip around the Guild Wheel the first didn’t go to plan. The plan being to park up at my usual spot by the old Halton station on the Lune; cycle via Lancaster to Morecambe, on to Carnforth, up to visit friends in Over Kellet and follow the lanes back to the bridge at Halton which has just reopened after some refurbishments. The lovely lady at the mobile tea van was telling me about children stealing her drinks and probably terrifying her. She had photos which she handed to the police, but it is doubtful that any resolution has been achieved. How often do we here that the police have their hands tied when dealing with juvenile crimes. Which is the party of law and order? Years of Tory austerity has decimated the police force. I digress.
I unload my cycle whilst drinking my coffee, checked I had everything, give her a cheery wave, and I’m off along the old railway. There are not so many people about, so I make good progress into Lancaster, over the Millennium Bridge and on to Morecambe. I stop at a seat on the promenade to take in those expansive views across the Bay to the Lakes, the tide is well out exposing endless stretches of sand. Why not go down the Stone Jetty and have a drink at the café there, which I have not previously visited. (I’ve still not visited the upmarket art deco Midland.)
But where is my phone with my credit card. I frantically search my bike bag, tipping it out on a table. My version of panic sets in , more disbelief than anything – it’s not life or death after all. I summon up some logic. Did I leave it at that first bench on the prom? Did I leave it in the car park? Could it be still be in the car? Thoughts of continuing my planned jaunt are quickly squashed as I imagine someone happily spending money on my credit card and accessing information on the phone, we are very vulnerable these days.
So back to the bench where a family are now seated. No they didn’t see anything, would I like them to phone my number? On balance, I thought not as it could alert some undesirable to find it. Time for that later in the search. Let’s get back to Halton and hope for the best, it may have been handed into the tea van lady. I cycle the seven miles much faster than usual, OK there is some panic, and soon arrive at the car park. No it’s not anywhere inside the car. Moving to the other side I spot it sitting quite proudly on the roof! What luck? Wow, what a relief.
Time for another coffee and a relaxing sit down. The tea van lady is surprised to see me back so soon. I call it a day and drive home where I am hopefully safe from my stupidity. Not what I had planned.
The next day I arrange to meet up with M at our secret new crag which we are slowly exploring and developing. It could not have gone better, M leading two classy new routes and me cleaning a soaring crack line for next time. I would like to tell you more, but I’m sworn to secrecy.
There are no photos of the Morecambe trip because I’d lost my phone and I can only give you a shady glimpse of the climbing.
I’ve just seen the updated forecast and next week is mainly dry, giving a little more of Summer. Time to conclude my aborted cycle ride and maybe later get out with M on the rock.
Was I comatosed by the sweet aroma of the prolific Himalayan Balsam plants that lined the route? I seemed to fly around the first half of the wheel without being aware of what I had passed. Time travel on two wheels.
Before I knew it I was in Avenham Park, encountering and trying to avoid the deafened walkers tuned in to their music and the dogs on ever longer leads. Peace returned through the docks. Here I noticed for the first time a signage for an engineering award bestowed on the Guild Wheel.
I’m not sure when I was last here but the groundwork on the Western Link Road has gone on apace. Roads are already tarmacked and the expansive and no doubt expensive bridge over the canal completed. It will be interesting to see where they route our Guild Wheel.
I call in for a coffee and a rather expensive slice of cake at the Final Whistle in the university sports ground.
The only field left in Cottam has sprouted houses since my last visit. Where have all the flowers gone?
I was getting weary by the time I reached Red Scar.
Twenty-one miles and what do you get? Another day older and stiff in the neck.
This was In my head as I rode around the Wheel, it’s been there since my childhood, inspired by –
I’ve just cycled a 16mile stretch of the Fylde coast, Fleetwood to St. Annes and then back again. As I’m putting my bike back in the car I spot a heavily laden touring cyclist.
“Have you come far?” I ask.
“Yes I’m cycling around the coast of Britain”
“Gosh – For charity?” I ask seeing the Multiple Sclerosis logos on her T-shirt.
It turns out that Lis has been diagnosed with MS in 2013 but is determined to complete this 6000mile challenge to raise funds for the MS Trust as well as benefiting her own health. She is amazing, full of enthusiasm after three and a half months pedalling. We swap a few stories, I donate to her charity, and she cycles on towards Blackpool and then Preston. The balloons on her bike celebrating her 50th birthday today. I’m well and truly humbled with my small stretch of coast. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/LisvanLynden
My day started when my clandestine climbing partner phoned to say he might have caught Covid on his recent trip to Montenegro and didn’t think he should go climbing. Neither did I.
The bike was already in the back of the car, and soon I was on the M55 heading to the Fylde. The traffic was heavy, I wondered about the possible bank holiday crowds on the promenade in Blackpool. However, parking at Fleetwood sea front is always easy. I pedalled down the coast, had a snack at St. Annes and pedalled back against the wind. The only busy spots were between the tower and the pleasure beach. ‘Kiss me quick’ hats de rigueur.
Empty prom north of Blackpool.
Crowds thinning out on St. Annes beach.
Heading back to Fleetwood.
‘Steampacket’ to Ireland passing Black Combe and Barrow.
Job done – well not quite. In the week I had listened on Radio Lancashire about the unveiling of a memorial to a lost trawler boat, the Goth.
The trawler, the Goth, failed to return in December 1948, 21 men were lost in a fierce storm off Iceland. Then 50 years later the funnel of this vessel was trawled up in the net of an Icelandic boat, Helga. The Goth’s last resting place is now known. The funnel had eventually been brought back to Fleetwood – to become a lasting memorial. It survives as a reminder of the Fleetwood fishing community and a way of life of courage, comradeship, generosity and good humour.
Fleetwood at one time was a major port, the third largest in Britain, for the trawler industry, no longer alas. On the seafront where I park are several reminders of the hardships and losses of these seagoing boats and crews.
Welcome Home. Anita Lafford
Past this place, the fishermen of Fleetwood have sailed for generations while their families watched from the shore. Their courage and comradeship under hardship is a living legend. This memorial, depicting equipment from a trawler, was placed here in recognition of the great contribution which the men and women of the fishing community have made to the life of Fleetwood.
The plaque lists 39 trawlers lost in 50 years with an awful loss of lives which can be seen if you click and enlarge this photo —
But there was no sign of Goth’s funnel along the seafront with the other tributes, I have to ask a local where the memorial funnel is located. He somewhat ashamedly tells me it is on an inland roundabout next to Asda! I drive there and park up. A grotty path around the side of the supermarket takes me to the edge of the busy roundabout. And yes here is the memorial funnel squeezed ingloriously into the roadside.
I can only assume that the cooperative cash of Asda has paid for this location. But how on earth has it been approved – nobody can see it. I challenge Wyre Council to come up with a decent reason. How much better if it had been located on the sea front or at the Mount park for all to appreciate. Lunacy.
One day I will find time to visit the Museum housed in one of the oldest houses of Fleetwood.
I arranged a walk with my son today whist he is off work and I took him on a repeat of one of his early childhood walks of which he had no recollection – the classic Nicky Nook circuit from Scorton.
This involves parking near the local parish church, St. Peter’s, famous for its steeple, a landmark visible from the M6 going north. The time was 3.00.
We didn’t mess about on field paths low down, just walked up the quiet lanes until there was access into GrIze Dale. I always enjoy the stroll up this deep wooded valley, today there was only a trickle of water in the beck. The Grizedale Reservoir was the lowest I have ever seen it.
Walking up the gentle side of the hill we started to meet more people, but generally the place was deserted.
That’s not the top.
We stopped at the freshly painted trig point to take in the views over the Bowland hills, the motorway snaking north, Morecambe Bay and the Fylde. That is why most people come up here.
Down the steep side and into Scorton where we take the lane to the church whose clock now says 5.30.
An innovative sign.
Time for a beer and a Chinese meal back in Garstang. He still didn’t remember the childhood walk but enjoyed the excursion, it’s good to share.
I’ve cycled this route several times in the last few years but there seemed to be a lot more happening today.
After all the talk of electric bikes on my last post the first person I met today was trying out an electric folding Brompton Bike, one of those iconic designs with small wheels.£3000+ worth. I don’t think small wheels would cope with some of the terrain I cover, more of an urban machine, but I complimented him on his purchase. I’m still undecided.
This was all whilst enjoying a good coffee from the friendly mobile kiosk at Halton Station on the old Morecambe to Wennington line. I’ve just come across this bit of history – The original timber station was destroyed by fire on 3 April 1907. A spark from the engine of a passing Heysham–St Pancras boat train set fire to a wagon of oil drums by the goods shed. The fire brigade were unable to cross the narrow bridge, and it was left to a special trainload of railway workers from Lancaster to pass buckets of water from the river. The station was rebuilt in brick and timber and the building survives to this day, used as storage by Lancaster University Rowing Club, with a public car park occupying the former track bed.
There was a running event on and hundreds of runners kept appearing from the Caton end and disappearing towards Lancaster. I recognised many of the local athletic club vests as I watched them go by. I unloaded my bike, gave the tyres a quick pump, and set off in pursuit. Turned out there was both a 10-mile and a 20-mile event on. The track became a little congested with runners, cyclists, dog walkers and pram pushers but everyone was in good humour. The 20mile run crossed the Millennium Bridge towards Morecambe, which was my chosen route for today having gone to Glasson Dock last week. At some stage things became more congested as the quicker runners after a turn around were now heading towards me for the finish at a quick pace.
Passing Halton Station and tea van.
The Millennium Bridge over the Lune.
Heading back towards the 20mile finish.
When I arrived at Morecambe sea front the tide was the furthest out I’d seen it, acres of clean sand. The Midland Hotel looked busy with diners, I promised myself a visit to this iconic Art Deco building when I’m passing midweek later in the year. Would it be a full lunch or just the equally full afternoon tea?
Interestingly I mentioned on my recent visit to the Maritime Museum the in-depth history of the area including Morecambe’s ups and downs. The 1920/30’s super lido, which brought in the tourists, closed in 1975 and then demolished, was adjacent to the Midland Hotel roughly on the site of the proposed Eden Project – “what goes around comes around”. My heading photo shows the spot.
I’d never been to the far end of the ‘stone pier’ so off I pedalled, past the old station and lighthouse, now a cafe, to the very end which as the tide was at its lowest stuck out into the sands. A few fishermen had set up their positions waiting for the tide to return. They, a friendly trio from Middlesborough, hoped to catch ‘gummy sharks’ so named , thank God for those paddling in the bay, because they have no teeth. They showed me photos of previously landed 20lb specimens. I forgot to ask them what they did with any fish they caught, throw back or take home for supper?
For a sunny holiday Sunday I expected the promenade to be far busier than it was. To be fair there were long queues at the fish and chip cafes, and it was busy as ever around Eric’s statue. Otherwise, my cycle up the prom to Happy Mount Park and beyond was a delight with those far-reaching views across the bay to the Lakeland hills. I stopped briefly on the canal for a snack and soon found myself crossing the atmospheric aqueduct high above the River Lune, and then back to my car.
The Lune Aqueduct.
The day was not yet over. A quick phone call confirmed Sir Hugh was at home and willing to receive visitors. Back onto the motorway via that tricky junction 34 up to Milnthorpe and Arnside. On my arrival my friend was up a non too secure ladder trimming his high hedge, he didn’t need a lot of persuading to come down and serve a grand cup of tea. We caught up on our recent none adventures, we have both simultaneously come to a virtual halt.
The reluctant gardener.
But the highlight of the day was to come. Over the last few years he has taken to plastic modelling; planes, boats and cars but as yet no trains. I have gently cast sarcastic doubts over this clandestine activity. But on a recent comment to his blog I mentioned my almost ‘classic’ car and true to form he presented me with a scale model of my Mazda MX5, spayed in the identical blue. That’s what friends are for. Thanks very much.
My bike has lain in the back of my estate car since early June when the day after a ride in Morecambe Covid eventually caught up with me, but that’s another story. Today was my first ride since then. I was pleased with my progress to Glasson Dock along the Lancaster Cycleway on the old railway track. A cheese and onion slice at the wonderful village shop went down a treat. Forget the touristy snack bar on the marina. I watched the children ( and their Dads) catching crabs from the dockside. All I had to do was cycle back the 10 miles to Halton.
Lunch at the village shop.
The motor cyclists hang out.
Down a side street – do you remember these?
The only excitement along the way was a lady cyclist who came past me remarkably quickly. Of course, she was on an electric bike and disappeared into the distance. That set me thinking.
Would it be worth buying one, how long does the battery last, how heavy are they? For me, one would only be useful for that extra push up the hills that I find increasingly difficult.
How legal are they on cycleways shared by pedestrians? One would not be allowed a motorcycle on a cycle/pedestrian route. Apparently in cities they are becoming the transport of choice for muggers snatching valuables – silent assassins.
I pedalled sedately along into Lancaster. How many times have I been past the Maritime Museum and never visited it? I was in no rush so decided there and then to rectify that omission. They kindly allowed me to take my bike inside as I didn’t have a lock. £2 admission fee seemed very reasonable, if I had carried my Art Fund Card with me, it would have been cheaper.
One and a half hours later I emerged from the museum well satisfied. It is based in the original Lancaster Docks C18th Custom House and an enjoining warehouse overlooking the Lune on St. George’s Quay. (header photo)
Before Lancaster Port and Glasson Dock were established Sunderland Point was the main port on the Lune.
The harbour front Sunderland Point.
Unloading cargo at Sunderland Point, c1890
There were extensive and informative displays on the history of the port of Lancaster, focused on the transatlantic trade which made the city prosperous. This obviously involved the slave trade picking up Africans cheaply and transporting them inhumanly to the West Indies for profit and then the goods that then came back to Britain – sugar, rum, cotton, timber, tobacco. Ship building became a significant industry in the area and a furniture making firm Gillow’s established itself in the C18th. Felt hats were manufactured in Lancaster which I didn’t know. All these facets of life in Lancaster were thoroughly explained with a great selection of artefacts and photographs.
The price of a slave.
Cotton and rum in the warehouse.
There was detailed information on the history of the local fishing industries. Salmon from the Lune, Shrimps, cockles and mussels from Morecambe Bay.
Cockling, Morecambe Bay.
Salmon fishing in the Lune with haaf nets.
A fisherman’s cottage.
The perilous sands of Morecambe Bay were explored with mentions of the ancient crossing routes, still possible today with a local guide. The many deaths though were highlighted.
From a gravestone in Ulverston.
Morecambe had its own history from a minor fishing port, to a passenger port for the Isle of Man and Ireland, a bustling early and mid C20th holiday resort (Bradford by the Sea) and the development of the port of Heysham not forgetting its nuclear power stations. All presented with excellent interpretation and original artefacts.
The ‘super’ lido.
Painting by Norman Wilkinson.
The coming of the canals and the railways was well documented. Included were the original plans for an Aqueduct over the Ribble at Preston to connect to the Leeds Liverpool Canal, this never was materialised, and instead the tram bridge was constructed. The latter is currently closed due to safety issues and one wonders whether there is the will or the finance to repair this historic structure. I was impressed with the ‘express’ passenger canal barge preserved in an upper room, these, with regularly changed horses, reduced the time of travel on the Lancaster Canal when coach travel on rutted roads was slow and uncomfortable.
Inside an express canal barge.
A lot of the exhibits were to attract children with interactive features, but this didn’t distract from the amount of serious, learned and well presented history throughout.
In a room in the warehouse section I watched a video detailing the history of Lancaster since Roman times. Well worth the time. By then the café had closed, and they were ready to throw me out at 4pm closing time. Highly recommended, and you need a couple of hours in there to appreciate all the exhibits.
My son had never been to see the Bleasdale Circle despite having walked around the Bleasdale estate since he was a young child. In fact when I think about it, we pushed him round in a ‘buggy’ when he was barely one. I had to remind him that was 50 years ago!
I must have a dozen or more posts regarding Bleasdale and have mentioned the Bleasdale Circle several times. Things didn’t look right today as we took the concessionary path towards the circle – the trees which enclosed it have virtually gone, I had to take a second look. As we came closer it was obvious that there had been severe storm damage since I was last here and the remaining trees harvested. To be honest the whole site looked a mess, all very disappointing, it’s going to need some loving care to make it presentable once more. The concrete inner ‘posts’ were still in place, but the interpretation board was undecipherable. The views from up high on the fells will no longer show the prominent circle of trees marking the site. See my previous photos here.
I quote from previous posts –
The circles are Bronze Age and were originally oak posts, an outer and inner ring. Discovered in 1898 and subsequently excavated they yielded a central burial chamber with cremation urns and ashes. These are now on display in the Harris Museum in Preston. The inner ring of wooden posts have been replaced with concrete posts. The orientation of the posts within the circle of the Bleasdale Hills may suggest some deep reason for their siting here.
We walked on around the estate at a slow pace as the temperature soared. Our plan was to finish the walk just before six when the Cross Keys Inn at nearby Whitechapel would be opening. The plan worked, and we enjoyed a beer and a good meal.
We are at the start of another heat wave, being out in the sun for long is energy sapping. But it is Tuesday when Rod and Dave go climbing, they have sensibly decided upon the shady Witches Quarry. I tag along.
My blog has been here before. I have been many times over the years, it is our nearest limestone climbing. The narrowest of lanes lead out of Downham for a few twisty miles with Pendle looming above. Today tractors going about their business slow me down – but there is no rush with the top down. Following an agreement with the farmer one is allowed to drive into the quarry, close the gate!
When I arrive a few other climbers are already doing routes. It’s a small world and I know most of them, so we chat whilst I wait for my mates to arrive. Then we sneak off to the lower and easier left-hand buttresses.
In times gone by we always wanted to lead a climb, ie roped up from the bottom, placing protection as you went. That felt like the only way to climb – testing one’s physical and mental capabilities. Of course there was always the risk that if you fell you may be injured or worse, with good judgement and luck I have survived 50 years of climbing.
Times moves on, we are not as fit as before, we have lost that ‘edge’ to push ourselves, accidents at our age could have serious consequences. OK I’ll admit it we have lost our nerve and humbly resort to top roping routes. Having a rope above is so very reassuring.
We busy ourselves on some short crack climbs which seem more strenuous and tricky than their grades would suggest. All very enjoyable. We are in the shade, good company and the rural surroundings of the quarry are a joy. What better way to spend an afternoon.
Meanwhile, the other teams are leading much harder routes which I remember from the day. We are well and truly put in the shade.
Rod and Dave safely top roping.
Steve leading something much harder.
For the record – Hemlock, Coven Crack, Cauldron Crack, Sixth Finger and The Shrew.
It’s two months since I was last able to do a walk out of Mark Sutcliffe’s guide book. Finding one locally I strode out today on his Jeffrey Hill chapter. The suggestion was to park at Little Town Dairy, a farm shop, nursery and café. I feel guilty using a businesses’ car park if I’m not giving them any business so I parked by the road higher up on the route, which was to prove tiresome later in the day.
I had reservations about the initial route through the upmarket barn conversions at Dilworth Brow Farm, previously a run down property. There was no need to worry, the path through was obvious, and even the local dog was friendly. Every farm seems to be erecting holiday lodges, Is this a result of the recent ‘staycation’ mentality?
An uncertain start.
Once into fields I could enjoy views over the Ribble Valley and distant Pendle as I dropped to an ancient bridleway. Being enclosed and sunken this was once a boggy mess, but drainage has been installed and an upgraded grit surface added. This was only a short section of the right of way, one wonders why certain paths are improved (a further one later) when others are neglected.
Note the size of the left-hand gatepost.
I made the obligatory short diversion to view the Written Stone, I have written of this before,excuse the pun. A car passes down the farm lane, I thought I recognised friends from years ago and regretted not stopping them. As I walked through the tidy environs of Cottam House I asked a man about the history of the place, he turned out to be the son of the above couple. So we had a catch-up, I passed on my regards and walked on.
The Written Stone.
This was the start of a slow climb back up to the ridge of Longridge Fell. Rough ground skirting the golf club and then the road up to Jeffrey Hill at Cardwell House. A large walking group was coming past and didn’t seem over friendly, head down mentality. There was a straggler taking some interest in his surroundings. We ended up in a long conversation about all things, as he said “it’s not dark till late”. I felt he had lost connection with the route march he had been on. Nobody came looking for him.
Up to Jeffrey Hill.
The Ribble Valley and Pendle.
No time for stragglers.
I took a picture of the iconic view which I mentioned in a recent post. A ‘glass wall’ has replaced the iron railings depicted in the painting I own from 40 years ago.
That view from Jeffrey Hill.
Nearby was a bench for refreshments. Some stones had been intricately carved as part of an art sculpture from 2014, It was a shame they removed the star of the installation, the Sun Catcher.
Remains of the sculpture installation.
Now steeply downhill, look at the contours, ending up on the road at Thornley Hall. The ford leading off the road was surprisingly full. The next bit of track starts as a track but quickly becomes an overgrown narrow path, the book advises a stick for hacking back the vegetation. I happily swashbuckled my way along and at the end came onto another strange short stretch of gritted path.
Looking back up to Jeffrey Hill.
The listed C18th Thornley Hall.
A promising start to the bridleway…
…soon becomes this…
…and then unexpectedly this.
Familiar lanes took me past Wheatley Farm and a house that always has a splendid floral display. Onto the busy main road where care is needed on the bend. I was glad to be back in the peaceful fields of Chipping Vale under the Bowland Hills. Heading towards Little Town Dairy where I could have parked at the start, but no I was faced with another steep climb back onto the fell. I reckon I had climbed over 1000ft in the 7 miles which took me 4 hours including all those stops.
Wheatley Farm, 1774.
One has to spend one’s money on something. 57 has gone shopping.
Parlick and Fairsnape.
There was one more encounter at Sharples House. The farmer there had previously talked of having the largest cheese press in Lancashire, I believed him. In the past many farms in the area made their own cheese, tasty Lancashire. Today he seemed in a good mood, so I enquired further, and he took me to see the stone, it was indeed large and must have weighed a ton. He explained that the house was from the late 17th century. A former occupant, a Peter Walken (1684-1769) had been a nonconformist minister as well as a farmer. Uniquely he kept a series of diaries, most have been lost but two from 1733-34 have been found and published by a researcher from Preston museum. The present farmer was contacted and was able to see the journals but described them as boring, though they must have given an insight into farming life in the first half of the 18th century. He also told me of a mystery from the last century when two thieves broke into the house killing the farmer, but the daughter perhaps escaped hiding in an adjacent barn. One wonders how much local history has been lost.
There is another mystery just along the lane at Birks Farm – what is this structure in the wall built for? I should have asked the last farmer, next time.
Up the steep lane, over the last stile and I finish this splendid walk back at my car overlooking Longridge.
My friend and blogger Sir Hugh, conradwalks , often talks of ‘a bloggers gift’ Some unexpected happening or conversation that brings the story to life. He seems to collect these occurrences on a regular basis, many of them centred around a cup of tea with complete strangers. I’m secretly jealous.
Picture the scene – we are walking down a country lane when a man recognises me and enters into conversation. We are just passing his house, and he suggests showing us around his garden. We are not rushed for time, “Yes we would like that” was our innocent reply. The garden was large and unruly with many interesting plants. His main passion was apples and he had many varieties, most grafted onto stock by himself. We had finished the garden tour when his wife offered us tea, we couldn’t refuse. Next thing we were seated in the garden with tea and chocolate birthday cake. Talk was inevitably about the old times, we had many shared acquaintances.
As we came away after a good hour in their company I realised I should have had a photo of the occasion – a bloggers gift. Too late, what a missed opportunity.
Anyhow, here are a few photos from our stroll around the Whitechapel area beneath Beacon Fell. The emphasis was on beautiful Lancashire pastures with extensive views and on the multitude of very expensive properties, you don’t get much for less than a million. Mike was prospecting a possible route for a walk he is leading later in the month starting and finishing at the newly refurbished Cross Keys Inn.
Longridge Fell looking across the green Chipping Vale towards the Trough of Bowland.
At the risk of raising the blood pressure of my, environmentally sensitive, readers – read on.
Following on from my brush with Covid I have not kept up with the walks featured in the Lancashire Cicerone Guide book. I hope to resume them shortly. Today I needed a gentle leg stretcher – Longridge Fell always has something to offer. I’ve not done a ‘litter pick’ up there for several weeks so that became the object of the morning’s stroll.
Parking up I was immediately confronted with discarded pizza boxes and drink bottles , also strangely two plastic motor oil containers. There is a litter bin 10 metres away, though admittedly it is usually full to overflowing. Not a good start to the day.
I set off on my walk intending to clear this mess up when I return, it won’t all go in my bag. Longridge Fell was bone dry making for easy walking though the threats of moorland fires must be high. I noticed the bilberries were very small perhaps a reflection of our lack of rainfall this June and July. The other thing that struck me was that the heather was already blooming – I seem to have missed some seasons this year.
A sad finding on the ridge was a recently dead Kestrel. I could see no signs of it being shot, but I did wonder afterwards about possible poisoning. Should I have picked it up and sent to the RSPB or police for toxicology tests?
Up to the trig point and back in a circle I half filled my bag with the usual doggy poo bags, drinks cartons and food wrappers. The short stretch on the road at the end provided an equal amount of rubbish dumped out of passing cars. All I had to do was pick up the rest of that rubbish in the car park.
This is a local beauty spot with a fine view of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills so there are always cars parked here. In lock-down it was a free for all with all the verges taken over, things are back to normal now. Today I noticed two artists busy painting the scene. I wandered over to have a chat and admire their work. One was using watercolours and the other acrylic, they both complained about the high temperature affecting their paints. What a talent to be able to capture that view with a few brushstrokes. I wish I had asked them to email me a copy of their finished paintings. That reminds me, I have on my study wall a watercolour of the very same scene done for me by a Mr. A Long, an artist who lived in Longridge 40 odd years ago.
Mr Long’s painting.
What a contrast from two gents fully appreciating their environment to the louts who drive up here with their takeaways and don’t take them away.
I used to be able to recognise and name most of the wayside flowers. As part of my A Level Botany course we had to present a collection of pressed and dried flowers to the external examiner for an intensive viva. I’m talking of 60 years ago, I suspect the modern day student will not of heard of external examiners and vivas. Being the sad git that I am, I still have my folder of dried flowers, about 200 species all classified and labelled precisely. I may fish them out and show you my diligence.
Time passes by and one’s interests widen, but I have always tried to put a name to plants as I pass by, but I admit to becoming a bit rusty on those once familiar names. At my age one starts to worry about dementia but all my friends struggle too. Annoyingly that elusive name will often surface at a later time. Anyhow, to brush up on my plant recognition skills I decided to upload an app onto my phone that would help me on those I had forgotten. I know I’m behind the times with this technology.
There were several to choose from, and eventually I chose one. I pointed it at an Ox Eye Daisy and it only told me that it was from the Asteraceae (daisy) family. That didn’t seem to be good enough, so I tried a few more. None were particularly accurate or quick to respond, maybe it’s my ageing Android phone. I searched ‘best plant apps’ and eventually settled on iNaturalist. Time to put it to the test.
A local walk I often do involves a pleasant almost traffic free lane. They call it Mile Lane despite the fact that it only measures half a mile. My mission today was to try and photograph and identify every flower seen on this short rural stretch of Lancashire. Last time I was out I was solely on the trail of the Bee Orchid – today I would be content with a Thistle or Dandelion.
That half mile took me far longer than usual as I searched the verges and hedges for as many plants as possible. Rather disappointedly I only counted 25 different species. (Grasses weren’t included, that would have been a step too far.) I recognised the majority of them but was stumped by one which my app told me was a Hedge Woundwort, Stachys sylvatica. I wasn’t aware of its pungent smell, next time I come across it I’ll check that out. Its common name suggests it was used for dressing wounds, no doubt having some antiseptic properties.
I was not impressed with the iNaturalist. It took a long time to register the plant and often gave a rather vague identification. I admit my phone is not the best for photography which may have a bearing on the results. If any of you have a suggestion for a favourite plant identification app I would be very grateful for your advice, I’ll try it out on a different lane.
Last year I bought a recommended book ‘Dancing with Bees’ by Brigit Howard, though fascinated by the subject I didn’t get past the first few chapters. It remained on my bedside table along with other must read volumes. I’ve caught up on about a dozen books whilst laid low with a vicious Covid visitation. Brigit’s book is as much about reconnecting with nature as it is about bees and I have been stimulated to learn more. I took advantage of a hot sunny day and went outside to watch the bees visiting a particularly scented clump of purple Astrantia. It was overload with so many bees buzzing around, several species were noted but as for identifying them that was a different matter. Taking photos was as frustrating as with butterflies. This isn’t going to be easy. Defeated I await the arrival of a bee identification book before I try again.
Meanwhile, I am aware of Bee Orchids growing in our local limestone quarries. I have never seen one. A chance comment from Shazza (all things nature and Clitheroe) mentioned she had spotted Bee Orchids at Crosshill Quarry, that’s all I needed. A flower Bee should be easier to observe than a flying one.
It wasn’t that easy. I parked up in Pimlico on the edge of the industrial sites of Clitheroe and headed into Crosshill Quarry nature reserve. A meadow off to the right was all a meadow was supposed to be, abundant grasses and flowers. I felt like Sherlock Holmes combing through the foliage for evidence. Purple orchids, trefoil, vetch, etc but no Bee Orchids.
I continued on to the small Quarry within the site where Shazza had reported Bee Orchids. I searched diligently across the open quarry floor, ideal limestone habitat for a Bee Orchid, but to no avail, wishing I had asked her for a more precise location. There was a myriad of other species, marjoram, bedstraw, twayblade and other orchids.
The last time I was here on the Sculpture Trail I failed to spot the Footprints in the rock face by Tom Dagnall – I made sure I didn’t miss them today. They were so effective, how did he carve them into the limestone?
Round two. There is a geological trail nearby, Salthill Quarry, which I had never visited, All was unfriendly industrial units and articulated lorries. I eventually found somewhere safe to park the car and set off more in hope than expectation. The main purpose of the trail was to highlight the rock faces and bedding planes of an old limestone quarry. Crinoid fossils predominated. I was itching to climb the shorter walls but thought better of it. The path was too enclosed for Bee Orchid habitat, I needed open spaces. Following the trail round, it could do with better interpretation boards, I came into more open ground with Pendle Hill lording above us. A fossil bench has been constructed with images of ‘sea lilies’, animals on the sea bed, that became crinoid fossils all those years ago. Backwards and forwards I combed the hillside for the elusive bee. I was by now almost back to where I had started, and I took a diversion to look at an isolated rock face on the edge of the industrial complex. Some other purple orchids took my attention and there suddenly was a Bee Orchid. It couldn’t be mistaken and then there were a couple more. By now I was down on my knees trying to zoom in for the best shot. And to think I was only 40 metres from where my car was parked inside the quarry.
Ironically the bee mimicked by this orchid is not present in the UK, so the plant is self pollinating after all. Why is it here in the first place?
Crawling out from under my rock I wonder where a week has gone. It went in a haze of Covid fever, headache, cough and abdominal pains which laid me lower than expected. I could hardly read others posts never mind complete my own. I’m not at my best.
June 14th. 2022.
Where was I?
Ah, yes. Parking up at Halton Station in preparation for a cycle ride around Morecambe Bay. Post coffee I’m off, so good to be out again feeling free as a bird. Into Lancaster, over the Millennium Bridge and out to Morecambe. I take a bit of detour past the football ground to arrive at the coast in the West End near the site of a former pier. The view out over the bay is clear, but everything seems at a great distance. I soon pass the Midland Hotel, one day I will call in for tea, and continue up the promenade without stopping at the various attractions.
West End Sculpture.
I’ve been this way so many times before, I even know the way from the end of the prom to reach the Lancaster Canal. Normally I turn south here but today to vary my route I head north alongside the canal. This is a delightful stretch with the canal elevated above the surrounding countryside. Below are Hest Bank and Bolton-le-Sands, and father out are the treacherous sands of the 2004 cockling disaster when 21 illegal Chinese immigrants lost their lives. We still don’t know how to manage the flow of immigrants into