I could hear rustling in the ferns behind me all evening and when I looked some movement in the vegetation and the occasional squeak, but no clue as to what was in there. I was bouldering on the north facing wall of Sweden Quarry, which gave shade from the hot sun, even so I was sweating profusely, we are just not accustomed to temperatures in the high 20s. The quarry hosts quite a bit of bird life – blackbird, wren, robin, chiffchaff, blackcap, mallard and no doubt many more. Barn owls nested earlier in the season. It is a great place to sit and take in the ambience such as it is with old tyres, fencing and rotting trees cut down in the plantation a few years ago. The pool at the bottom has shrunk greatly in this recent drought.
I was about to leave when I spotted something yellow out of the corner of my eye, in fact, there were two yellow blobs in the grass. The squeaking became louder as Mother Duck led her brood out of hiding down to the drying up pool at the base of the quarry. The other four chicks were brown and well camouflaged, it was the two yellow ones that gave the game away. I grabbed my phone for a quick shot, but then realised they were out to play for a while, so I was able to retrieve my camera and sit down to enjoy their display. Mother floated quietly whilst the chicks darted about exploring, exercising their legs and no doubt eating the odd green morsel. After some time, Mother decided they had had enough and marched them back into the undergrowth to hide away for the night. I hope the ducklings survive but fear for the yellow ones who are all too obvious to any predator. I will report back on further sightings over the next week. (Still six there two days later) So how unusual are yellow ducklings? Mallards, Muscovy and domestic ducks have occasional yellow ducklings, many of these develop into white ducks – so we will see.
The joys of living in the Ribble Valley on an evening like this.
Thursday, July 15th. 7.5 miles. Knowle Green/Longridge Fell.
10am. As usual, I’m festering in bed with a second coffee and the day is drifting away. The high temperatures ensure I’m not rushing off anywhere. The phone rings and I prepare myself for fending off Amazon Prime or Netflix scams. But no, it is JD enquiring if I’m wasting the day or would I like a walk, 5 or 6 miles up the fell? I say yes to the latter and hurriedly sort myself out to meet him at the top of town. Things have gone quiet since my trips away, I’ve been bouldering up in Sweden Quarry the last few days, where there is shade from the hot sun, but my arms need a rest, so a walk is perfect.
We take the path through Green Banks Quarry housing estate, given planning permission on the understanding that it would be for tourist lets and bring prosperity to Longridge, what a joke. A bridleway goes down to the Written Stone, all familiar territory. We catch up, he’s been away in the Lakes, and I’ve been straight lining it to the North Sea. Our vague plan was to walk field paths above Knowle Green and then maybe climb up onto Longridge Fell.
Coincidentally, one of the last times I was here was with Sir Hugh on that straight line walk I mentioned earlier, back in winter 2019. https://bowlandclimber.com/2019/02/04/sd-38-longridge-to-barrow-whalley/ So I had a ready-made continuation walk on paths not known to JD or to many others, judging from their wildness. The same farmer who appeared from his run down house back in 2019 was eager to chat again today. He was all talk of shearing his sheep tomorrow and how if he penned them in on his cobbled area they would clean the yard of vegetation. There is no money in sheep wool these days. He warned us that the footpath ahead was difficult to follow, but I thought I knew better until we ended up in the wrong field. I did at least find the hidden way across Cowley Brook.
Working our way up pathless fields to Hougher Hall was hot work, the dreaded Horse Flies were a menace. The slate poem by the gate is a lovely reference to swallows, unfortunately there aren’t many about this year.
It was with some relief that we arrived at the open fell by the little reservoir. This where JD pulled out an ace and set his stove up to prepare a decent coffee with biscuits. Luxury. Friends of mine wild swim in this water, but I see that a ‘No Swimming’ notice has been erected since last I was here. Presumably, United Utilities Health and Safety.
Refreshed we continued up onto the fell, looking back the reservoir appeared hazily below. We had no need to visit the trig point, and it was now all downhill on the spine of aptly named Longridge Fell. There was some friendly discussion as to the length of our walk, JD’s 5 or 6 probably transformed to my 7 or 8 miles.
Guess what, we finished the afternoon having another coffee with his wife on their sunny patio with that wonderful Bowland Panorama.
We hadn’t intended to explore Whalley, as the walk that Mike had found written up in a booklet only skirted the village, but on a whim, we parked near the Abbey. I have visited Whalley many times, most recently on my Lancashire Monastic Walk The C13th Parish Church has always been closed when I’ve passed by but this morning we were in luck, and I was able to view the elaborately carved stalls in the chancel. They date from about 1430, and came out of Whalley Abbey after the dissolution. The misericord carvings under the seats represented all manner of everyday subjects. There were several cage pews usually belonging to one family for prayer but also near the door a churchwarden’s pew seating eight. The stained-glass windows were resplendent in the bright sunshine.
Back outside we couldn’t resist the jam and chutney sale for church funds, I came away with some lovely marmalade which we took back to the car. An hour had passed and we hadn’t even reached the start of the walk. We decided against visiting the Abbey.
Cutting down the side of the abbey brought us into a mews development based on an old corn mill, we were to pass the weir and mill race on the River Calder shortly. This whole area was inundated in the Boxing Day floods of 2015…
Down a pleasant street of cottages, all with immaculate gardens, and we were en route. There was very little water in the river today, it’s hard to believe its destructive power. Crossing a road, we entered a field which has been taken over by mountain bike tracks and jumps, they look great fun for the youngsters.
It took patience to cross the busy A671 road to reach a path up the golf course. Above the course, steep fields continued with good views back to Whalley Nab and Kemple End. No sooner were we up than the guide had us perversely coming back down again. We were not very impressed with the guide’s vague instructions. Young bullocks blocked our way, hens free ranged and horses followed us. More fields (“aim for a bush”) and then we were in the manicured grounds of Read Hall. Mike recollected a bumpy landing in a hot air balloon here, but he obviously survived.
Puzzled by the guide.
Whalley and its Nab.
Kemple End and distant Bowland.
Read Hall Gatehouse.
An old lane took us down to pass a busy little garden centre, we smelt coffee and were drawn in but queues and Covid regulations suggested a long wait, so we escaped without spending any money.
The path onwards followed the banks of the Calder until we climbed out of the valley to pick up an ancient packhorse track heading towards the Abbey.
This went around rather than over Whalley Nab and to be honest we didn’t get the best of views down to Whalley. A lovely day for a walk through beautiful English countryside, but as I said the guide was poor, we could have and should have devised a far better round ourselves.
I first looked into this large hole in the ground, hidden in the forest on Longridge Fell, many years ago and climbed a few routes as well as some boulder problems. I called it Sweden because of the fir trees. Time passes and one’s attention goes elsewhere, but I never forgot. With travel restricted, the popular bouldering venue Craig Y Longridge became even more crowded at times, so I stayed away. I remembered this place though, the trees have been felled and the plantation has become popular with dog walkers. I mentioned it in a post a while back. Well since then on sunny evenings I’ve been visiting this place, cuckoos are calling across the way, mallard ducks are paddling in the pool below and barn owls have successfully nested in the higher parts of the quarry. The Ribble Valley is a distant view away. Magic and memories.
Looking back through my photos from 25years ago, I have found pictures of the walls up here with dotted lines drawn to show the problems I had succeeded on. The clean wall I’m now revisiting used to have JOKER in large red letters painted right across it, that has faded completely. And now the joke is on me, as I’m finding all the problems far harder than I remember. Tempus fugit!
I used to climb here with Tony, Pete and dear old Dor. Everything was fun and everything was possible. They are all dead now, and I miss them so.
There has hardly been any rain in the last few weeks, it was bound to change and it was just The Rockman’s bad luck to be here today. I have not seen him for almost a year, so when he phoned to say he was passing en-route to Milnthorpe and would call in for coffee, I was delighted. I had recently declined to visit him in Bolton when their Covid figures were sky-high and travel there was discouraged. Times have moved on, and now the Ribble Valley is leading the way in UK infections. As he said, “that was no problem”.
I suggested a gentle walk up Longridge Fell and then a spot of lunch before his onward journey. The morning was dull when he arrived, optimistically wearing shorts and short-sleeved summer shirt. After a coffee and catch up, even my cat seemed pleased to see him, we drove up the fell. There were spots of rain in the air as we left the car. Our attention was diverted by a patch of orchids in the car park.
The track up the fell was as dry as I’ve ever seen it so the usual bog jumping tactics weren’t needed. Slowly the cloud lowered, blotting out any views of the Bowland Hills or the Yorkshire Three Peaks. We chatted away, ignoring the dampness, as he said, “it was only hill drizzle”. The summit cairn came and went, we had only passed one other walker on his way down. I navigated us into the forest for some shelter and a different way back. As he said, “there was little evidence of a path”, but I knew better and forged onwards, used to these hidden parts. It was only when we emerged from the trees heading downhill in the wrong direction that I admitted we could be lost or as all good explorers say “temporally displaced” Coincidentally at the time we were discussing Tilman who had his fair share of epics. The Rockman actually met Bill Tilman way back in the sixties down in Antarctica when the latter was exploring the southern seas and The Rockman working for the British Antarctic Survey, there was talk of penguins. Backtracking soon sorted out our problem.
When we next emerged from the trees the rain was continuous and as he said, “wetting”. You all know a summer’s day walking in unexpected rain. Speed was of essence, and we were soon back at the car driving home with the heater on. What was planned as a cold summer cucumber soup was quickly heated up to be more palatable on a day like this. I even switched the central heating on for the first time for months, this was not a success as it produced a dull droning noise throughout the house, I suspect coming from an ailing pump. Something to worry about later.
We enjoyed a good catchup and if he hadn’t come I would certainly not have ventured out, so some exercise was accomplished which we both agreed was worthwhile and should be repeated more often now we are hopefully coming out of lockdown, but maybe with an eye to the weather forecast. He drove away in a heavy downpour. As he said, “the luck of the draw”.
What am I doing here? In the middle of a field halfway to a trig point on Duckworth Hill with a farmer cursing us for trampling his private land. We retreat to placate him, fortunately I know most of his family and acquaintances, so after some gentle banter he leaves us to the futile pursuit of visiting trig points. We visit point 217 m and complete the day of a triple of trig points on these West Pennine Moors. Incidentally, not all were necessarily on the highest ground in the vicinity. It wasn’t my idea, but it actually provided an enjoyable walk, yes you’ve guessed it, I’m out with Sir Hugh again.
Sir Hugh on Duckworth Hill, 217 m, Pendle in the background.
Our meeting place at Immanuel Church turned out to be a large car park for our sole use. The first helpful bystander we met was cutting the cemetery grass, he suggested a route beyond our comprehension but visiting a splendid waterfall. After a brief walk in the wrong direction, we eventually reached open ground. Today most stiles and paths were adequately marked, any diversions were our mistakes. The wind turbines on Oswaldtwistle Moor watched our progress all day. At Jackhouse, an old farmhouse, we received more directions this time including a nature reserve.
Immanuel’s graveyard and our first ‘guide’
Jackhouse and our second ‘guide’
It being a sunny day we decided to visit the said reserve and walk around the lake. Unfortunately, we took our own path through the undergrowth, a waterfall was passed, and then further progress was impossible, an escape route was taken to find the correct path. This was pleasant with views over the lake, a former mill feeder. Onwards through a cluster of barn conversions, Cockerly Fold.
The ‘wrong’ waterfall.
Escaping from the jungle.
A better view of the nature reserve lake.
A barn being converted in situ.
We disturbed a lady sunbathing at Cocker Lumb Cottage, no picture this time. Cocker Lumb is the beck coming down this valley. Not many people come this way and she suggested heading for “the trees up there” – there was of course a profusion of arboreal growth. Rough meadows followed, in fact most of the land up here could be classified as rough meadow with little modern agricultural use, hence the profusion of horsey establishments. I’ve no idea how most residents arrive at their remote houses, there are many rough lanes which must communicate with the outside world.
Down by the beck a concrete obelisk in a field took our notice, it seemed to have a plaque on one side. There was no way of entering the field so we had to be content with futile zoom shots and futile internet research later.
Our unknown obelisk.
An unavoidable but short stretch along a busy road and we were at Mt. Pleasant Farm and our first trig point of the day, 308m. There wasn’t anything aesthetically pleasing about its position.
308 m – we didn’t investigate the blue thing.
An easy stroll took us across Accrington Moor alongside a golf course, Green Haworth, with lots more stables and horse enclosures all around. A little lateral thinking had us into the field containing our next trig but to our amazement it was totally enclosed by a fence keeping the horses away from a large manure pile. It didn’t take Sir Hugh long to breach the defences and claim 257m.
Green Haworth course.
Accrington in the valley.
a pile of ….
Our intrepid trig raider.
Getting out of the field meant following the boundary until a gate appeared. The one we used brought us out onto the road exactly opposite our onward footpath. It was time for lunch. Lanes took us back into the outskirts of Ossie where a large litter pick up was in progress, one lady was in Whams Brook unearthing all kinds of treasure. A wander around the graveyard and we were back at our car park after about five hours fresh air, there is more to visiting trig points than you realise.
Stiles -ancient and modern.
A remaining mill.
Classic mill terrace.
On the way home I drove over Longridge Fell and was surprised to see a parapenter circling and landing in the field above the caravan park. He had glided over from Parlick, 5 miles away, and was trying to reach his home in Longridge. He was pleased with himself and packed up to walk home to ride his bike back to Chipping to collect his car. I’ve never seen anyone land here before, but he told me he made it to Scarborough on one occasion.
This is a repeat of a walk I did on a lovely summer’s day last year and today was another perfect warm and sunny day. We drove over with the roof down for Covid safety and for the exhilaration of the Lancashire hill country. As we parked up a red kite was being mobbed by crows above our heads. A new notice board has been erected on the river bank highlighting the very walk I had planned for today. https://ribblelifetogether.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Slaidburn-route-guide.pdf We virtually met no one apart from in Slaidburn.
The flatness of the riverside meadows was in contrast to the steep wooded limestone escarpment to our left. Dunnow Hall was looking resplendent. Instead of using the road, we followed a concessionary alongside the Hodder all the way to Slaidburn. As usual, the café and car park were busy with tourists and motorcyclists. We sat by the bridge for a welcome drink before that steep pull up the road and into fields going over small hills to Easington. From up here the enclosing bare Bowland Hills were a contrast to the green wooded valleys. Swifts few overhead.
The little Easington Beck was followed to Easington Manor and hamlet. Mike was pointing out properties on the northern flanks of Easington Fell that he developed for a businessman who had just sold TVR (the then Blackpool built sports car). Money was no object. Now back beside the Hodder we followed an old cobbled track, known locally as the ’causer’, to the bridge at Newton. Sand martins, dippers and wagtails all made an appearance on queue.
Mike not impressed by the village hall.
Slaidburn bridge shading sheep.
Bowland at its best.
Back on the Hodder.
The pub in the village was closed, so we drove home for tea. A classic little circuit made all the more enjoyable by the weather, and of course the company.
For a more detailed description of the villages, have a look at …
The concept is straight forward: walk up Fairsnape, watch the sun set, bivvy, watch the sun rise, walk down.
That is precisely what I did last night. After supper, I drove out to Chipping and parked up under Parlick Fell. I know I should have walked, but it was a last minute decision. Several other cars were parked up, either late off the hill or with the same idea as me.
The lane to Fell Foot, Longridge Fell behind.
I trudged my way around the Western flanks of Parlick and onto the ridge leading easily to the trig point on Fairsnape. 510 m. My suspicions were correct, there were already two tents pitched near the top. A couple of lads out from Preston. A few more people wandered about and disappeared.
Where are you going?
I found a soft flat spot for my bivvy just east of the summit. Making a careful note in my mind as to its position.
I returned to the trig to photo the sunset over Morecambe Bay and Black Coombe. It could have been better.
I returned to my bivvy for a flask of tea and an early night, I don’t remember it getting really dark. The next thing it was after 4am, and I was awake. I got up and paced about in the cold wind waiting for the sunrise. It could have been better, although the light over Ingleborough was special.
Whernside and Ingleborough, 4.15am.
I decided to get back into my sleeping bag to get warm before walking down, and before I knew it the clock showed eight. Packed up at last I set off down and used the zigzags towards Higher Fairsnape. There was nobody about, so I took a more direct line to join the path above Blindhurst Farm and back to Fell Foot. Only near there did I meet the early birds going up.
Top of the Zigzags.
Looking back to my descent.
First met in the morning, they should have had a good day.
It is rare for me to discover a local path that I have not walked, but I believe I found one today.
Mike phoned suggesting a walk and we agreed on driving a little further in one car to Dunsop Bridge, with the windows open. How risqué.
The plan was to walk up the waterboard road and traverse the boggy watershed between Brennand and Whitendale. Heavy overnight rain made me have a rethink, lets just walk around the Hodder. We found a place in the free [keep it to yourself] car park next to the café. Morning coffees were already being served take away style.
A stroll past the ducks on the green and the ‘Centre of Britain’ phone box and we were striding down the avenue of giant Sequoias leading to Thorneyholme Hall. Before the River Hodder a stile on the left gave access to fields which we were able to follow alongside the water. Not many people come this way, it was my first time. Old trees have outgrown their metal railings.
There is a large pipe bridge taking water from Slaidburn Reservoir towards the Fylde and a little farther on a flimsy looking suspension bridge. We examined it for sturdiness, it wobbled a lot. Continuing up the river bank we had only sheep and lambs for company. Unfortunately we had a short section on the road at Boarsden, in retrospect we could probably have used tracks in the fields with a little trespassing. Anyhow, we were soon back on an indistinct field path passing by a massive quarry which had eaten away a considerable amount of rock from a Limestone Reef Knoll. After a look around the base of the quarry we continued across fields to a suspension bridge identical to the one seen earlier, at least on this occasion we were justified in venturing onto the bridge as the public footpath crossed it. Feeling seasick we crossed another field to come out onto a lane.
I recognised my surroundings now, and we marched along over Giddy Bridge, a solid stone one, not at all giddy like the suspension bridges. The Knowlmere Manor House lies just off the track and is noted for its many chimneys, each room in the past must have had a fireplace – think of their energy rating.
The track rises past Mossthwaite with the Bowland Hills ahead and that first little bridge far below. We witnessed a commotion amongst a flock of jackdaws ahead of us, only when reaching the spot did we see the Sparrow Hawk awkwardly trying to fly off with its kill. I wanted to visit the banks of the Hodder downstream from its confluence with the Dunsop where sandbanks are home to sand martins but today, strangely, there were none.
We walked back upstream to Thorneyholme and crossed the river back to a busy Dunsop Bridge. Those metal kissing gates with the yellow latch are spreading everywhere. A takeaway coffee and cake were obligatory outside the PuddleDucks Café along with all the cyclists.
A lovely sunny morning’s stroll in stunning Bowland scenery.
The plan was to visit three triangulation pillars haphazardly scattered on Sheet 103 of the OS 1:50,000 Landranger map. For the record. Rushton’s Height 324 m, Hog Low Pike 383 m and Rushy Hill 377 m. Sir Hugh knows these things, I’m not sure how many that leaves to visit. Some of the time we were on The West Pennine Way some time on The Rossendale Way but most of the time on our way, I shall try and make three trigs as glamorous as possible.
Our trials commenced shortly after getting out of Hoddlesden onto the moors. Stiles were missing, blocked or dangerous. Gates were locked. Waymarking virtually non-existent. It took us much longer than anticipated to reach the first trig point of Rushton’s Height. There were views to the nearby Darwen Tower.
Sir Hugh records RUSHTON’S HEIGHT.
Getting through the next farm which was spreading like a rubbish dump tried our patience even more, we gave up on our original line and took to some easier tracks to Aushaw Farm. Then we were on the more open moor at last and following little used paths, The West Pennine Way, on rough ground. Small abandoned quarries scattered the moor, what a desolate life it must have been. Ahead of us was a rounded hill sticking out of the moor, we speculated that it may be our next trig point. A little ingenuity was needed to get around Broadhead, we almost took to canoeing the boggy sections. On the map we should have been walking through a forest but it had all been felled. A steep pull up fields, then we had a stroke of luck – part of the moor ahead has been planted with trees and opened up for our enjoyment. It led straight to the trig point of Hog Low Pike. Another group of walkers was just leaving it. Cold weather was blowing in with spots of rain, we didn’t linger, but the backside of Pendle was visible between showers.
HOG LOW PIKE.
A look at the map for our way forward showed we were on open access land, a glance at the moor showed little paths everywhere so we were able to take a direct route towards the Grane valley, it was steeper than expected but led through newly planted trees. There has been a programme of tree planting in the Burnley and Rossendale areas where sheep grazing had denuded the slopes. We came upon a deserted farmstead, many were abandoned when the Grane valley reservoirs were established and the land became water catchment. Farming began to decline but many of the smallholdings set up loom shops which kept them going but by the turn of the 20th Century most of the old farms were deserted and the people moved to the rapidly expanding mill towns, We passed many more later when on the Rossendale Way but by then we were in rain and not stopping for pictures. Lunch was taken amongst the mossy ruins to the sound of bird song and some warming sunshine. I later found some history to our resting spot on Haslingdens Blogspot.
Bentley House Bentley House does have some striking history, especially in regards to “illicit whisky distilling” which took place during the mid , 1800’s – Here is an article published in the Blackburn Standard – May 20th 1857:
ILLICIT DISTILLATION OF WHISKY….. On Saturday at the Court-house, Haslingden, Jonathan Haworth, farmer, Bentley House, Haslingden Grane, was charged by Mr. Ellis Heath, supervisor of the Inland Revenue in the Blackburn Division, with being the proprietor of an unlicensed still for the manufacture of illicit whisky. Mr. Clough, who appeared for the Board of Inland Revenue, stated that this was one of the most compact and connected private distilleries which had been brought to light, at any rate in this neighbourhood; and but for the vigilance of the officers of the Board, it might have been carried on for a length of time without detection. At eleven o’clock on the night of 3rd April last, Mr. Ellis Heath, accompanied by the officers, went to the house of the defendant, which is situated at an unfrequented and isolated part of the township of Haslingden. On going into the house, the officers proceeded to a square weaving shop, but observed nothing there by two pairs of looms. On examining the room above that they found it was a much larger room. They descended again to the weaving shop, and tapped the wall, which defendant said was a gable end of the house. They found the mortar soft, but yet it corresponded with the other walls of the chamber. On looking at the flags they found that they had only breen freshly laid. A few were taken up and after taking up a quantity of earth, an arched entrance cut out of the solid rock was discovered with an aperture just sufficient for one person to enter in a creeping position. On the officers entering the chamber by this, the only entrance, they found a new still and every apparatus requisite for the manufacture of illicit spirits, with a number of tubs, a quantity of wash, &c., which were immediately seized and conveyed to a place of safety. The flue of the fireplace in the room had been cut out of the rock and taken below the floor of the weaving shop and house until a junction was formed with the chimney of the house, so that one flue only could be seen to emit smoke. With the stone cut from the flue the partition wall of the weaving shop had been built so that no material had to be brought to the house, –Mr. Ellis Heath and others proved the case and the bench inflicted a mitigated penalty of £50 and costs, in default of payment to be imprisoned during her Majesty’s pleasure. — On the 7th ult., the defendant had been convicted of being on the premises where illicit whisky was found and convicted in £30 and costs, in default to go to prison for three months. The prisoner then sold ten head of cattle and went to prison. The seizure reflects great credit on the vigilance of the officers and will do much to check illicit distillation in this neighbourhood.
There was a substantial stone post aside the ruins with a faint inscribed word, again with later research this turned out to be ‘To Bolton’, the farm had been alongside the ancient road.
As I said black clouds had built up and we were in rain for the next mile as we followed the Rossendale Way past many ruined farms at the head of the Grane Valley, the reservoirs could just be made out in the mirk under the steep quarried heights of Muswell. We safely crossed the busy road and were back on open moor and soon at the last trig point of the day, Rushy Hill. Nearby wind turbines were about all we could see.
RUSHY HILL. Some sort of ritual.
A boggy track took us back to the road and on to Pickup Bank. We left the minor road to follow an even more minor lane down the hillside past various farmsteads, many with attached horse paddocks. The lane was steep and rough, I can’t believe I actually tried to drive down here as a shortcut to Hoddlesden on our last ill-fated meeting.
Not recommended for my Mazda.
Arriving back in the village we passed the remains of the cotton mills which once provided all the employment, now occupied by the usual assortment of ‘dodgy’ workplaces. In the village itself we were surprised at the quality of the stone terraces and cobbled streets, some effort had gone in to making the mill workers’ lives bearable.
The Ranken Arms.
An excellent days outing. What will Sir Hugh come up with next?
As an aside, my first aid kit came into action on the drive home. Some plastic from my front number plate started flapping alarmingly above the bonnet but a quick stop and application of a blister plaster solved the problem. I wonder how long it will remain there? I did consider an Aspirin in the radiator at the same time.
JD phoned to suggest a walk by the rivers to try and spot otters which have been present recently. Suffice to say we didn’t see one but had an enjoyable walk nonetheless The stretch of waters we walked by I’ve described so many times in these pages, so I do not intend to repeat it here. We started on the Hodder and walked to its junction with The Ribble and then carried on to Hurst Green, basically part of the Tolkien trail. Spring flowers were more varied with new species appearing, the bluebells continued to put on a good show and of course the wild garlic was at its best in the damp shady places. Many of you will know the route on seeing this tree, the Winkley Oak.
Midweek is becoming much quieter as many people have returned to work, we met only a handful of dog walkers. A favourite spot is where the Hodder and Ribble join, there is a bench inside a fisherman’s hut which provided a comfortable lunch spot looking out over the rivers. Farther downstream near Hacking Hall the sandy banks provide nesting spaces for Sand Martins which were flying low around us as we passed, lovely to see them back. A thunderstorm with heavy rain caught us on the last stretch to Hurst Green, the sky above Pendle having taken on mysterious dark hues. Pubs are still only able to serve outdoors and because of the rain there were no takers in the Shireburn or Bailey establishments when we passed.
This was the first time I’d been walking with JD for probably 6 months, thus the lack of Otters didn’t dampen the day, but the rain certainly did try to.
I’m just about to eat my supper; wild garlic encrusted fish, a poached egg and new potatoes. The wild garlic was picked on today’s walk from one of the numerous wooded dells I traversed, my rucksack will smell of garlic for days.
Two days ago I was in Balderstone and today I’m parked in Osbaldeston, a few houses in a row. Obviously ‘balderston’ is the common phrase. I’m off to explore another bit of countryside south of the Ribble bypassed by the busy A59.
The little lanes around here are fairly free of traffic mid-morning, but I suspect will be a different matter at school and work times. As I said Osbaldeston is hardly a village, a row of mixed cottages and affluent houses with large gates, you know the sort. I was soon in fields where one stile led to another making navigation simple. I’ve just realised that hedges and not walls mark the boundaries in this area. The elegant steeple of Balderstone church was always peeping over those hedges and up above Mellor Moor, but more of that later.
I spotted a deer running off up a field and when I passed this dell I heard crying – and there were two very young calves left in the grass. A quick photo and I left as soon as possible, what a start to the day.
The next group of houses, Studdlehurst, were hidden away at the end of a lane. Again large gates and horsey activities were evident. The man mowing the lawn of what was probably the original farmhouse was chatty, mainly about the weather, his massive garden and the state of the footpaths since lockdown.
The next house had distanced itself from the general population behind electric gates, but had provided excellent waymarks, gates and stiles on the public rights of way – what more can you ask? Mercyfield Wood was full of bluebells, I apologise if I took too many ‘bluebell pictures’ today.
Crossing fields towards the river a new fence was going up but the original stile will be reinstated, the workers told me. At last, I was down by the River Ribble which was flowing quickly after overnight rain. I was on the lookout for Otters but to no avail. All the usual birds were present with Sand Martins making a return. Across the way was Hothersall Hall and I had a different view of it than from my usual walks.
The RofW path cut across the land to Osbaldeston Hall however a concessionary path was signed by the river so I gratefully followed that. A large group of Swans were paddling about farther on below the Old Boathouse. At Osbaldeston Hall I was pleasantly surprised to find the footpaths well-marked and the landowners going to a lot of effort to make life easy for the walker. I had only seen this hall from the Ribchester side before so it was good to come close up. A pleasant spot for a snack in the sunshine which had been in short supply until now. The old ‘Boathouse’ on the other side gives a clue as to a former ferry as well as a ford marked on an old map.
One cannot but sympathise with the farmer if his sheep are being worried, I fear that with the vast increase in dog ownership there will be a corresponding increase in irresponsible ownership.
The next mile or so was a switchback in and out of woods and ravines. Again plenty of scope for bluebell pictures and for picking some wild garlic for supper.
Once I approached C17th Oxendale Hall I was being watched by security cameras, the footpath became enclosed circling the property and I could have continued into the woods without seeing the Hall. An unmarked public footpath, not meant to be used, in fact crosses their frontage for a close up view. Of course, I was spotted and asked, or rather shouted at, if I was lost? I wasn’t lost, and I didn’t have the time of day for further conversation so continued on my way.
The next hall, Showley, another Grade II listed C17th but much altered, was something of a difference. The agricultural junk started well before the house and continued in most available directions. They deserve a listing for the amount of junk. I wonder if they get on with their neighbours at Oxendale Hall.
I picked up a lane taking me back to the A59 and after some time was able to cross safely this busy road. Once on the other side I had a choice of low level field paths back to my start or climb up onto Mellor Moor, the weather had improved and I knew the view from up there was worthwhile. Hence, I started the slow trudge up the lane and onto the open moor. Stopping for breath gave me an excellent view of Pendle.
The top of the moor is marked by a trig point but more unusually by the site of a nuclear monitoring post. A plaque relates its history. The Lancashire Telegraph had this write-up.
Concrete blocks amid the swaying grass are the only outward signs of what used to be a large underground nuclear monitoring post for the Royal Observer Corps, which opened in 1959. It closed just nine years later and has since been sealed.
Three men would have entered the post during times of potential nuclear attack and reported on explosions read off special equipment installed to read blast pressure, power and flash. The bunker, therefore, had its own source of power, ventilation, communications, sanitation, food and water.
The monitoring post was just one of 1,500 across the country which would be able to track and report any nuclear fall out, keeping the local population informed of the level of danger. Thankfully they were only ever used for training and exercises.
In the Second World War, an above ground look-out post was built here, too, by the Royal Observer Corps, for spotting identifying and tracking hostile or friendly aircraft flying over this part of East Lancashire.
A direction indicator has also been installed for the far-reaching 360 degree views across the surrounding countryside, Wales, the Lakes and Yorkshire as well as all the nearby Lancashire hills. Apparently this was also the site of a Roman signalling station, overlooking Ribchester from around AD 80. Earthworks are marked on the map but I’ve never identified them on the ground.
Pointing to Bowland.
I intended to follow footpaths back down the moor but came across this unfriendly gate. Not one to turn back on a public footpath I entered the grounds leaving the gate ajar in case of a hasty retreat. No hounds appeared so I was able to progress to the next obstructed stile. Why do people buy properties knowing there are rights of way through them only to do their best to keep the public out? Another one for reporting to the local authority.
More friendly fields took me down and across the A59 again to bring me back into Osbaldeston. Today I was luckier and my friends in Mellor Brook were home so a pleasant glass of wine was enjoyed in their garden before coming home to cook my supper.
Where haven’t I been for a while? Well it’s several years since I explored the countryside visible southwards across the River Ribble. In the past I thought that the footpaths were difficult to follow and rights of way ignored on the ground. Time for a revisit. So I found myself parked up in Balderstone; a school, a church and a couple of houses. I waved to a man delivering hay to one of the houses and then I was off along quiet country lanes. At Lane Ends I visited a trig point, for no obvious reason, at the lofty height of 74 m.
My first objective was to visit Balderstone Hall on the River Ribble and view from this side the former ford across to Alston. I’ve recently been looking at this scene from the Alston side.
A pleasant stroll down fields above the river brought me out into the confines of expensive and secluded properties. A right of way was shown on the map but it looked daunting. As it happened a couple of builders whom I knew were working on a wall of the Hall, they said nobody was about and showed me the way through past the rather intimidating signs. I didn’t like the look of the river crossing, maybe in high summer and low water I’d be tempted. The old map marks the ford.
I retraced my steps and left the exclusive properties for a path past a more run down farm. Crossing fields on the flood plain I bypassed a large farm and climbed back up the escarpment to reach a road heading west to Bezza House. Years ago, when Bezza was a tree nursery, I used to come here with Dor and many of the trees in her and my garden originated from here. One in particular that she bought was the ‘handkerchief tree’ Davidia involucrata, an exotic specimen from China. It takes years to flower and so one spring whilst they were away for the day I went around with a ladder and white paper tissues which resembled the flowers from a distance. Suffice is to say that they were well and truly tricked but the tree had the last laugh by flowering the next year and every year since.
There are great views from up here of the Thirlmere Aqueduct crossing the River Ribble.
Where the road used to continue bollards have appeared and now only a bridleway continues to Samlesbury. And what a pleasant bridleway it was; lined with spring flowers, bordering fields full of lambs and having views across the Ribble to Alston, Longridge and beyond.
It was getting near lunchtime so I hurried to reach St. Leonard the Less Church where I expected there to be seats. I was not disappointed, in fact a couple of walkers were already occupying the prime bench. The church unfortunately was closed. It has some very old box pews, apparently. I had to be content with the exterior views of the oldest, C16th, sandstone part and the distinctive tower built at the end of the C19th. In the graveyard was an ancient sundial, 1742, and a large font, 1769. The adjacent primary school is also of a certain vintage, I’m always cautious taking photos near schools.
A path climbed fields towards a house which turned out to be another religious establishment, the Roman Catholic Church of Saint John Southworth and presbytery.
An old sunken track high above the busy A59 was a hidden delight to walk. Peace came to an abrupt end when a stile deposited me onto the pavement adjacent to the traffic lights at the busy junction next to the Five Barred Gate motel.
Once across safely I was happy to follow the quiet lane past the extensive sewage works. Up and down it went until I was able to take a footpath across to another lane, thus by-passing the Nabs Head pub which has too many recent memories for me. I was soon on the pavement outside the C15th Samlesbury Hall. What a magnificent building this is and to think it was bought in 1920 for demolition, only to be saved by a local trust. I crept into the grounds for a closed look.
Crossing the busy road I made use of a quiet bridleway, Park Lane, taking me to Mellor Brook. I wished I’d had a bag to collect some wild garlic. From up here I could look across the extensive BAE site and the Ribble Valley to Longridge and the Bowland Hills.
I took a footpath behind houses where friends live hoping for a cuppa, but they were not at home. This humble little stream, Mellor Brook, once fed a mill pond that supplied water to a cotton mill.
The village deserves a better look with little alleyways and old houses. An unknown lane went under the A59 and out into the countryside. Fields headed back to Balderstone with the church spire always prominent. On the way I passed the grand looking Grange, you could rent its nine bedrooms on Airbnb for £2000 per night.
Arriving back at the school I was greeted by the man who’d seen me set off this morning. Turned out he was the school caretaker and seemed impressed by my modest mileage. I had time for a look around the outside of St. Leonards Church. It dates from the C16th but was rebuilt in the 1850s, the tower and prominent steeple were added in 1905 by those old favourites of Lancashire church architecture Austin and Paley.
I have had perfect weather for today’s enjoyable amble in this delightful backwater just off the A59. It was worth crossing the Ribble. Looking at the map I will return and complete another circuit to the east based on Osbaldeston.
There wasn’t a footballer, TV ‘Celebrity’ or landed gentry in the party that I met up with for today’s walk.
I couldn’t believe that after all my extra careful planning, they were the Cheshire Set after all, that our rendezvous spot had become a closed road this morning. Cary was seen further up the fell as others arrived more or less at the appointed time and place. We then moved all the cars to a better place.
The original ‘Around Longridge Walk’ has become redundant because of all the housing developments taking place and I’m looking to establish a more definitive rural circuit. My Guinea pigs had just arrived.
With black clouds over the Bleasdale Fells we set off in cool weather. Please be sunny and dry I thought, keen to show off the local countryside. They were the Cheshire Set after all. Green fields led down to Lord’s Quarry and the end of the railway that took the stone from all the Longridge quarries to build the towns and cities of the NW.
Mile lane was its usual half mile.
Clay Lane was avoided, too much wet clay, as I expertly navigated through nearby fields. By then it was time for morning coffee and pieces of Martin’s excellent chocolate chip biscuits. The sun shone. The long ridge of Longridge Fell was seen almost in full extent with the village at its lower end.
We were soon on the normally quiet Ashley Lane just as rush hour began and there was strangely almost constant traffic. Despite Alastair and Sue preferring to carry on along the road the rest of us turned off to go through the minor industrial estate of Sandbank. This industrial area was just a warm-up for the massive timber Wyder complex across the road. Floors and roof trusses are constructed here to be shipped off to distant building developments.
Back to country lanes we were then confronted by one of those large modern tractors with just enough room to pass.
Green Nook Lane led to a constricted path through more industrial units and out onto the track of the Longridge – Preston Railway, originally a track for horse-drawn carts carrying stone from the quarries to Preston and afar. Steam trains took over and a passenger service was run until 1930, goods which now included products from Longridge cotton mills continued into the fifties. Farther down the line at Grimsargh a branch line served Whittingham Mental Institution, at one time the largest hospital in Europe. We are left with a gravel track traversing the fields but unfortunately blocked off in places denying the chance to provide a green way from Longridge into Preston. Lack of initiative and planning.
The dog at the next farm was gathered into the owner’s arms as we tramped through their garden. Lunch was beckoning and the multitude of benches in the graveyard at Alston Church proved an ideal convenient and comfortable stopping point. They were the Cheshire Set after all. Social distancing proved no problem.
The spot we randomly chose was adjacent to the grave of Ginio Ferrari a well known local restaurateur. In his heyday he used to drive around in an open-top Jag with GF 1 plates. Apparently he had acquired these from the Rolls-Royce previously owned by George Formby, GF 1.
A stretch of pleasant countryside brought us back to the outskirts of Longridge and Tan Yard lane leading back to the quarries. Views from here across the reservoirs to Pendle and the West Lancashire moors.
We skirted the large caravan site hidden in the quarry to arrive back at the cars. One last treat was to look at the overhanging bouldering delights of Craig y Longridge.
We were lucky with the weather – more sun than showers, and I think Lancashire put on a good show for the Cheshire Set. I in turn thank them for making the effort to drive up the M6.
Must get this post out before Martin or I will be accused of plagiarism. [too late] I didn’t take many photos of the surrounding countryside or hills, I’ve enough of those already, but here Is a flavour of the day.
Most awkward stile of the day.
Easier European standard ‘stile’ – Conrad
Cary giving us all the lines of the magpie rhyme.
Inspecting Thirlmere’s water supply.
A less than grave lunch.
An introduction to Craig Y Longridge.
I’d noticed this morning a couple of helium balloons stuck in my cherry tree and resolved to retrieve them later. On my return there was a knock at the door from my neighbour asking if he can have his balloons back. He had recently retired and been to a party to celebrate – hence the balloons, they unfortunately escaped from his kitchen last night but didn’t go far. We fished them down and he went home as pleased as punch. Happy retirement Mike.
There were quite a few cars in the car park this morning when we arrived – early birds or dog walkers. Sir Hugh was just recovering from his head dive last week and I noticed a slight reluctance to turn his neck, however today was only going to be about six miles, well it turned out nearly eight, but there was no problem.
We climbed up onto Clougha Pike using the Rowton Brook path which passes evidence of past cottage industries most notably the C17 cotton mill. The present owner was happy to chat about its history and life in general.
There was no let up in the ascent but the ground was mercifully dry. The trig point, 413 m, was adorned with the most un-Goldsworthy stones. The views over the bay were murky but Morecambe Power station was ever present. In the other direction that other old favourite, Ingleborough, was in the background.
The easy way.
Clougha Pike summit. 415m.
The obvious continuation track went to Grit Fell, we followed it as the rest is trackless heather. The peat was bone dry and a joy to stride out on with skylarks somewhere overhead. A few grouse were calling gobackgoback. Not recalling that Goldsworthy’s installation was named ‘The Three Chairs’ we spent some time trying to identify three large gritstones fitting that description and marked approximately on the map.
Grit Fell 467 m. Can you spot Ingleborough in the gloom?
I did recall this isolated Xmas Tree farther along the ridge.
Once on the shooters’ highway we made good progress back in the direction we had just come from. I was beginning to doubt my ability as a guide when the moors stretched out ahead of us with no sign of quarries or chairs. Sir Hugh thought the day was a failure when suddenly we were there and the installations appeared much larger than I remembered. [marked G on the map] He was impressed – with the statues not my navigation. Do you call them statues, sculptures, installations or piles of stones? That’s where art has its personal interpretations. Piles of stones they certainly are not, these are carefully crafted structures with intricate stone work. Apparently Goldsworthy constructed one each year from 1999 to celebrate the millennium. We speculated whether he constructs them himself or employs a stonemason to help. After the obligatory photos we continued on our way off the fell.
An estate worker’s massive 4X4 passed us – or was it the Duke.
Three cairns appeared on the left which we declined to visit but on the next photo look quite interesting.
I was chatting to Sir Hugh about the Thirlmere Aqueduct which comes this way and an old quarry [marked Q on the map] near Ottergear viaduct ‘discovered’ and climbed in by my friend Pete. We reached the impressive viaduct and almost missed the quarry which I’d expressed a desire to revisit. A chance glance behind and we noticed a couple of blokes in the quarry. They were doing a bit of climbing there as it has been highlighted in a recent supplement to the boulders in this area. That led to a sociable chat about old times climbing.
A sandy path through the heather brought us back to the car park. A perfect little fell day.