Ignoring the title of my last post I’m up here again, doing it the easy way from Cardwell House , on Jeffrey Hill. And definitely staying out of the trees this time.
All part of my irregular three-mile litter picking circuit. I have been a bit lax recently and not kept up to my original monthly round. But no matter, the plethora of the Covid lock-down years has passed. There is room to park, though there are few takers this misty damp afternoon. There are always good pickings in the first hundred yards or so. I ignore the underpants in the car park and concentrate on the dog poo bags, a record today of 13, 10 of them full. The only person I meet is a dog walker, hopefully a responsible one as I bite my tongue and don’t grumble about the mess. By the way green doggy bags are no more environmentally friendlier than black ones – take them home, please. Rant over.
I keep to my plan – up to the summit, good pickings here as usual, cross over and come back down alongside the wall to the road. Cola cans outnumber Lucozade, for a change. The odd glove or hat, a helium balloon, Cadbury’s chocolate the favourite. One glass beer bottle.
I hope that if the fell looks clean people will be less inclined to drop their rubbish. Is there any evidence for this? This is my bit of fell after all, not that I want you to think I’m over obsessive about its cleanliness. (can you be over obsessive?) Once on the short stretch of road there is more to contend with. Some I will leave for the ‘council’ to deal with. Was it part of an organised litter pickup to be collected later or more likely a deliberate drive out and dump mentality? I’d better just stick to the fell.
By the time I was back at the car my bag was overflowing and feeling decidedly heavy. Job done.
“What do you think of it so far?” was one of Eric Morecambe’s catchphrases – and the reply from somewhere offstage – RUBBISH.
Up on Longridge Fell we were doing OK until the guide, walk no 23 of Mark Sutcliffe’s book, said to take a jink right in the trees. We already had jinked right awhile back as the fallen trees from last year’s storm Eunice?, blocked our tracks. But others had come this way recently, in fact quite a path had developed. We bushwhacked on. For once, I wasn’t the leader, Phreerunner was running but not as phree as he thought.
When Martin (aka Phreerunner) had included in his Friday walks Longridge Fell I couldn’t refuse to accompany him. I secretly knew the problems ahead but didn’t want to spoil the fun, it’s not Cicerones fault. I thought it a good idea to bring JD into the mix for some local support.
We had left Hurst Green alongside the delightful Dean Brook with its bobbin making history. The stream bed was carved by the water into Daliesque shapes. Resisting the urge to take another photo of Greengore we move on and across fields I don’t usually travel. Lanes and then a boggy path brought us out onto the top ridge where a simple stroll led to the summit trig point, 350 m. The light on the Bowland Hills was flitting from one area to another, but the three peaks never put in a show. Time for coffee and snacks.
Shireburn Alms Houses.
The onward path disappears into a dark plantation, and already we start meeting obstructions. When I was up here early last year I found it impossible to make safe progress. It was slightly better today as Martin forged forward bent double to avoid the branches. We made it through to more open ground and then found with the use of our phones a path going in the right direction. It is fairly chaotic up here at present, a shame that the forestry workers can’t spare a day with a couple of chain saws to clear a way.
As we left Hurst Green earlier this morning we passed the Shireburn Alms Houses and I related as to how they were originally built higher up on the fell in the earlyC18th and subsequently moved stone by stone down into the village around 1946. Well now we were above their original site on the fell next to the ‘blue lagoon’ reservoir. It wasn’t blue today in the rather dull conditions. The foundations can still be seen if one looks around, we didn’t.
Across the road, over a wall and down some fields, the directions lacked clarity here. We ended up in someone’s garden with a couple of wild eyed dogs snapping at our heels. We escaped and found our way down a ravine, the correct stile now visible behind us. It always amazes me, and I’ve said it too many times, that landowners don’t put signage up through their property and maintain the stiles – it’s not asking too much. If you buy a country property you will be well aware of any rights of way coming through it. Time to start issuing fines, I know that will never happen.
We skirted around Stoneyhurst School, admiring the architecture and the long stately drive. I think this was all new for Martin, and I shall be interested in his write-up for the walk on his blog. Soup and rolls back at Chez BC completed an excellent ‘Friday Walk’ May meet up again when he moves his troops to Silverdale in a couple of weeks time, or should I make the effort and travel down to Cheshire for somewhere new?
I didn’t take many photos, it was all too familiar, or so I thought, and we were busy chatting.
Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant controlling trade in the town. That was back in 1179. Holding the Guild every 20 years probably started in 1542, membership would only change every other generation. Bringing together the town’s merchants, craftsmen and traders led to pageantry, feasting and processions. Six centuries later Preston still celebrates the Guild (though there has been free trade since 1790) every 20 years.
There is a local saying “once in a Preston Guild” due to the 20 years gap – the equivalent of “once in a blue moon”. We like to be different up here.
The last Guild was 2012 and to celebrate it Preston and Lancashire County Councils devised this 21mile ‘green route’ circling the city nearly all off-road. It was opened in August 2012, and though not as green as it used to be is a lasting legacy to the city and its Guild celebrations. LCC has devised an auditory commentary by scanning the QR codes attached to the mile markers. I must get round to trying them.
Known locally simply as The Guild Wheel, GW, it also has a Sustrans cycling route number – 622.
I haven’t been on the Guild Wheel since last September’s aborted ride. Let’s see what today brings.
I get off to walk the steep track down Red Scar into Brockholes Nature Reserve. I’ve had enough mishaps recently, I don’t want to tempt fate, who is on strike today? Maybe the Nurses or the Ambulances. Better safe than sorry or worse.
Without binoculars, it is pointless to stop off at the bird hides, though I do recognise some swans from a distance.
The ride alongside the Ribble is the greenest section of the GW and whilst the sun was shining the river took on a liquid silver appearance.
The route brings you right into the heart of the city where the Old Tram Bridge linked Penwortham to Avenham Park. It was built originally by the Lancaster Canal Company in 1802 to link the Leeds Liverpool canal system to the isolated Lancaster Canal using carts to transport the commodities. The arrival of the railways led to the closure of the tramway in 1858. Recent inspections of the bridge have shown it to be on the verge of collapse, and it was closed for good in 2019. There has been a strong local campaign for some sort of restoration, both from a historical view and more importantly as a leisure facility, it being a popular pedestrian crossing of the Ribble in the city. Costings were proving prohibitive but then along comes ‘levelling up’ and Preston has received a £20 million grant from the government. Good news, going hand in hand with Eden Project I mentioned in my last post.
Avenham and Miller Parks are looking splendid. Proud Preston.
It’s 21 miles whichever way you choose to go.
Alongside the GW they are raising the river defences in Broadgate, the work is taking two years and already is causing traffic chaos at that end of the city.
‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?
Once I’m past the city of cars I’m on a new piece of tarmac alongside the junction with the Western Distributor Road system, it will soon be open. The GW then goes under the new bridge spanning the Ribble Link Canal.
Western Distributor links, that’s Longridge Fell in the background.
I call in as usual at my favourite café on the GW, the Final Whistle, in the grounds of the university sports fields. Toasted teacake and a coffee £2.95. Whenever I have a toasted tea cake I’m reminded of my sadly departed mate, big Tony, who couldn’t start a day’s climbing without his toasted tea cake and a pot of tea. We had a list of cafés throughout the north-west serving this delicacy. Great times.
A robin is always on hand to help clear up the crumbs.
Nothing much else to report, the housing estates are still proliferating on every space i the Cottam area eating up the green spaces, but what about these catkins in the sunshine – a harbinger of better days to come.
Here I am looking into a flood on the cycle track to Glasson. Did it all happen two weeks ago? What am I doing here again? I ask myself, I curse myself. I’ve been impatient and obviously unrealistic. I’m not thinking straight. The water has not had a chance to recede. We’ve had snow melt loading the Lune. This time I don’t put a wheel into the water but just turn around and pedal back with my tail well and truly tucked.
I’d only come out on this fairly grim day for some exercise to build up the knee muscles. There is a limit to what you achieve on the static bike in front of the telly. And my limit is almost zero. There is nobody about, I long for the Spring when the friendly tea van will be once again parked up at Halton Station.
Loneliness of the long distance cyclist…
Let’s make the best of it, cross the Millennium Bridge and head back to Morecambe. I come in at the west end, considered the most run down part of town, for a good reason. But last week the government has given £50 million towards the Eden Project, levelling up. Planning permission has been granted, so now it is a matter of securing all the finances and starting the scheme on site. Our Prime Minister has been up here, controversially by plane, to try and spin the occasion. Unfortunately a simple seat belt error has put him into deeper waters. I try to envisage the site but think I am on the wrong side of the Stone Jetty. The Midland Hotel will be close by and benefit from the investment as I am sure the rest of Morecambe will. Shame about the present rail non-station. Wouldn’t it have been great if they could have reused the Victorian Station and have visitors arriving in style. Car parking will become a problem.
Change of plan, the other side of the Lune.
West End of Morecambe.
Will I ever see it like this?
I’ve a splitting headache developing and go in search of painkillers. I’ve had problems since my blackout and injury a few weeks ago and don’t feel with it. Morrisons Petrol outlet serves me well. I enjoy another tasty cheese and onion slice from Kennedy’s bakery in the Festival Market. A combination of Brufen and pastry get me going again. But the pain gets worse and worse on the right side of my scalp. Glad to be back at the car, bike packed into the boot , I cancel my planned visit to Sir Hugh, fasten my seat belt and head home. It is only then that I realise since removing my cycle helmet that the pain has gone. Must have been localised pressure on my skull all along. Numbskull!
I was in Lytham a couple of days ago seeking out the memorials relating to the Mexico ship disaster of 1886 which led to the deaths of 27 lifeboatmen. The worst loss of life in the history of the RNLI. Chatting to one of the locals on the Lytham Promenade, he enlarged on the Cliftons of Lytham Hall, an interesting family by all accounts, and the influences they had had on the town over the centuries. He mentioned the mysterious Witch Wood.
Witch Wood is what’s left of The Big Wood, a 5,000 acre site, once part of Lytham Hall Home Park. The Cliftons ran into financial trouble and sold off the estate to Guardian Royal Exchange in 1963. Somewhere along the line the local council gifted the remaining derelict Witch wood to Lytham St. Annes Civic Society who proceeded to create a narrow strip of woodland, a green corridor in the heart of the town. Undergrowth was cleared and new native trees planted. A plaque says the woodland was officially opened by Prince Phillip in 1974.
The Western Exit, notice the cobble wall of Lytham Hall estate.
My visit, with cycle in tow, was going to be brief. The approach, after visiting St. Cuthbert’s Church, was along an old private driveway, now open to pedestrians, over the railway into the old Clifton Estate.
I’d been told of the Witch’s Grave inside these woods. Spoiling the story, not a female scary Witch but a horse belonging to John Talbot Clifton, the squire of Lytham Hall. The horse, Witch, had an accident in 1888 within the woods and a gravestone apparently marks its resting place.
Once in the woodland strip do I go left or right to find the grave? I go left, westwards, along a well-used path, no cycling allowed says the sign. Fair enough. The narrow wood is bounded on the south by the railway and to the north by a largely hidden housing estate. It should be easy to spot the grave especially at this time of year with little undergrowth. Of course, I don’t really know what I’m looking for. After walking a few hundred yards I have not found the gravestone. I turn around and head back.
A local couple are walking towards me – “excuse me, do you by any chance know where the Witch’s grave is?” ” Yes you must have passed it back there – it’s on the right in the trees” They offer to show me where, and I retrace my steps once more. It is evident they are very proud of their wood and extol the virtues of the Lytham Civic Society and all the good work the volunteers do. They are not too keen on irresponsible dog owners or cyclists. I wheel my bike quietly beside me. Next thing my guides and I are at the far western end of the wood where it joins the road without encountering the grave. They apologise, explaining they were distracted by our conversation. I apologise for troubling them and turn tail to try again.
Along the way I gather up more ‘knowledgable’ locals in my quest. “I think it is in the other half of the wood” is a popular opinion. So over the driveway and into the eastern half of the wood, we spread out scouring the undergrowth. They begin to lose interest but say they will shout if they find it as they scatter off onto side paths. I retreat to the western half as advised by the next group of locals, one who had walked these paths as a child believing in the Witch and fairies in the trees. For a while I follow them but begin to doubt their reliability and hang back, bicycle still in tow. That’s about a dozen locals I’ve consulted so far, it can’t be so difficult, surely. Back to the central driveway.
At last a pleasant lady with spaniel, must be local. I repeat my request and all of a sudden positivity arrives. She marches me without any fuss to the spot maybe a hundred yards away which I must have passed half a dozen times. I thank her profusely, she looks at me wondering whether I will be able to find my way out.
To be honest the gravestone is small and not that obvious in the trees. The stone is inscribed – The Witch. Died Jan 5th 1888. Satisfied, I can continue on my way now, not daring to mount my bike till well out of the wood. I cannot give you a grid reference for the stone – best of luck if you go in search. Try asking a local.
“The sea ran mountains high, and the breaking water was fearful”. Coxswain William Clarkson Lytham, Lytham Lifeboat Charles Biggs.
The tracks and lanes are still icy up here in Longridge. I want to get out on my bike, so opt for the hopefully snow free and safer Fylde Coast, there have been more than enough ‘accidents’ in my posts of late.
Has everybody had the same idea? The roadside car parks are all full and a mass of mainly dog walkers throng the promenade. And bracing is the word that comes to mind. The bracing was in the arctic breeze from the south, and it was in a southerly direction that I started. It will be easier on the return is once more my reasoning.
I’m always focused when pursuing a mission, and I’m on a mission today. I’ve been reading about the wreck of the sailing ship Mexico on the sands of the Ribble Estuary on the 9th December 1886. Worth a read here.
Basically the Mexico out of Liverpool became stranded on Ainsdale sands in a violent storm. Lifeboats from Southport, Lytham and St. Annes were launched. Those from Southport, Eliza Fernley, and St. Annes, Laura Janet. were both wrecked in the storm with the loss of 27 local men, (2 had survived from the Southport boat) . The Lytham boat, Charles Biggs, however rescued the 12 crew of the Mexico and rowed them to safety. An heroic effort but the single biggest loss of life in the whole history of the RNLI.
There are a series of related monuments and memorials scattered around the Ribble Estuary towns, Lytham, St. Annes and Southport. I’m only concerned with the first two today. Despite all my cycling exploits on this stretch of coast I have previously been unaware of this important history. How often must we go about with our eyes closed?
First up is probably the most prominent, the St Annes lifeboat monument, depicting a lifeboatman, on the South Promenade, It is almost hidden behind walls in the ornamental St. Annes Promenade Park, next to the public conveniences, no wonder I’ve passed it by in the past. A William Birnie Rhind designed it in 1887. A colossal statue carved in sandstone with the names of the 13 lost from the St. Annes lifeboat, Laura Janet, The attached notice encapsulates the story.
Up a main road, and I was at St. Annes Parish Church. Commissioned by Lady Clifton in the early 1870s, one of Paley and Austin’s, and named in memory of her aunt who was called Anne. (the Clifton family from Lytham Hall were prominent in the area for centuries) It was built as a chapel of ease to the then parish church of St Cuthbert in Lytham. Here are buried five from the Laura Janet boat. It is heartening that the Laura Janet Memorial has had a recent refurbishment funded by the local Civic Society. I found it in a forest of elaborate memorials, a sandstone Celtic Cross inscribed with the names of the men. The Church, Lychgate and Memorial are all grade II listed. Notice the pebble detail in the walls, a common architectural feature in St. Annes and Lytham.
Winding back through side streets I find the original St. Annes Lifeboat House, on East Bank Road, now a funeral parlour but with a blue plaque to commemorate the disaster, and an unusual weather vane. It seems odd that this boathouse was so far inland whilst the new one is on the shore.
After a pleasant cycle down the promenade I was at the site of the original Lytham Lifeboat House on the edge of the estuary. In the summer months it is open as a museum to the lifeboatmen. It was from here that on that fateful day in 1886 that the Lytham boat, Charles Biggs, rescued the 12 crew members of the Mexico.
On the marsh shore are a couple of anchors caught up in a trawl net by a fishing boat in the 1980s. The larger one is of the type lost from the Mexico. The other dates back to the late C18th used by warships from the time of Admiral Nelson.
Time to find the memorial in the graveyard of St. Cuthbert’s Church a few blocks inland. From the promenade I made my way through Lowther Park (more of that another time). The church dating from 1835 stands alongside a busy road, but the graveyard is peace and quiet. The Laura JanetMemorial was easy to spot, being the tallest around. A Gothic pinnacled tabernacle. Plaques told of the crew and where they are buried.
Whilst I was hereabouts I discovered the Witch Wood – but again I will leave that for another time. All that remained was to cycle back up the promenade, thankfully with the wind behind me, to where I had parked on North Promenade.
The RNLI is a charity saving lives at sea and deserving our support. How much of the infrastructure of Britain now relies on dedicated volunteers and funding raised by the public?
THE CREW OF THE ST. ANNES LIFEBOAT LAURA JANET.
William Johnson, 35 (Coxswain)
Charles Tims, 43 (2nd Coxswain)
Oliver Hodson, 39 (Bowman)
James Bonney, 21
Nicholas Parkinson, 22
Richard Fisher, 45
James Johnson, 45
John P Wignall 22
Reuben Tims, 30
Thomas Parkinson 28,
Thomas Bonney, 35
James Dobson, 23
James Harrison, 19
THE CREW OF THE SOUTHPORT LIFEBOAT ELIZA FERNLEY.
Charles Hodge (Coxswain)
Ralph Peters (2nd Coxswain)
The Southport crew have their own memorial and burials in Southport across those treacherous sands. Next time I visit there I will be on the lookout.
1. St. Annes Lifeboat Monument. 2. Laura Janet Memorial, St. Annes Church. 3. Old St. Annes Lifeboat House. 4. Old Lytham Lifeboat House. 5. Laura Janet Memorial, St. Cuthbert’s Church. W. Witch Wood.
I came across this temporary CCTV installation on my walk across the fields this morning. Notice how blue the sky is.
Placed in a field next to tracks leading to isolated farms and a back way into Ferraris Country Hotel. Four solar-powered cameras pointing around the compass. Have there been recent burglaries or fly tipping? I am sure it’s not to watch the animals or ramblers. Further enquiries are needed.
I was out for a short brisk walk in the countryside behind my house, there had been overnight light snow which always gives a different atmosphere to the familiar, making the fells look higher and more majestic. There was a satisfying crunch underfoot, mine were the only footprints. Though there were prints of rabbits, hare, deer, and the odd bird who had passed by earlier. The snow was rapidly melting in the fields but compacting to an icy danger on the lanes.
The Bowland Fells.
Soon I was heading up an icy Mile Lane back into the village for a bit of shopping.
The remaining snow had a rosy glow in tonight’s Turneresque sunset.
It had to be a quick visit. It was nearly 3.00 when I parked in the quarry, darkness comes before 4.00 and that is when the rain was due.
Aren’t we lucky to have a Country Park on our doorstep? Ready-made trails, sculptures, wildlife and views. Just great for a short visit and a burst of exercise when you can’t think of anything else. I tend to follow whichever path I find myself on, one can’t get lost for long and all will eventually lead upwards to the summit trig point at 266 m. Since thinning of trees has been carried out in the last decade there is a better variety of habitat. The only downside at the moment is that the visitor centre is closed, post Covid or council savings? I wonder what has happened to all the volunteers. Also don’t expect to find the previously excellent café open, they are only doing a takeaway service Thursday to Sunday.
Yesterday I walked quickly around the darkening forest and then out and up to the open fell top. There always seems to be somebody up there, the ‘green lungs’ of Preston. I was soon back at the car satisfied with my quick visit. The rest of the week looks rubbish.
Not all my outings go to plan. Is it the bang to my head that has affected my judgement?
Despite the forecast for rain most of the day my judgement was to get some exercise anyhow and hope the skies would clear. Some hope. I set off cycling from the usual Halton on Lune parking. Full waterproofs from the word go. The only respite was when I could shelter from the worst downpours under the many bridges in Lancaster. There weren’t many people about and once out of the city there was suspiciously nobody coming the other way on the usually busy cycle track. After a mile or so there was flooding across the path, my judgement told me it wouldn’t be very deep. Only after about 50 yards as the water came well above my bottom bracket ( a cycling term not connected to my anatomy) and my feet were soaked did I stop to ponder. Would it become deeper, what if I fall off into the icy water, and do I have to return the same way? That ditch on my left looked awfully deep. Yes I did the only sensible thing and turned gingerly round. Glasson, its coffee and pastries, can wait for another day.
End of the line.
I tried to rescue the day by cycling another way on the northern side of the Lune through Skerton to Halton. I was unimpressed. Even the ride out to the Crook of Lune lacked enthusiasm, though the river at the Halton weir was in good form, (header photo) I suspect that the flood I encountered was due to the heavy rain combined with a high tide.
I called it a day and went for a welcome coffee and biscuits with Sir Hugh in Arnside, thank you. The sun was shining when I set off for home.
Woke up, fell out of bed Dragged a comb across my head Found my way downstairs and drank a cup And looking up, I noticed I was late Found my coat and grabbed my hat Made the bus in seconds flat.
Lennon and McCartney. 1967.
Fast-forward 56 years and I almost missed the bus today and the chance of a walk above Chipping. I was lounging in bed with my second coffee of the day, struggling with The Times Crossword. A little hungover from our family’s delayed Xmas/New Year celebrations taken yesterday. My prize present was a bottle of malt.
The forecast was for showers off and on all day. Why do we listen to these updated seaweed predictions? I see out of the corner of my bloodshot eye, from the injury not the whisky, blue skies over all my new neighbours’ new houses. Looking closer all seems good out there.
Made the bus in seconds flat. The stop is handily placed on the corner of my road, and I was soon in Chipping. All part of my intent to make more use of public transport this year.
The walk I quickly improvised is on good surfaces but virtually traffic free and takes you in a circle to the base of the Bowland Hills and back. I’ve described it most recently here and there in more detail.
The sky was blue, there was no wind and the views seemed clearer than usual. Into the grounds of Legram Hall I was on a private road threading its way past farms and sheep country to the open fells, although I wouldn’t be tackling them today. Too early for the snowdrop display I strolled onwards with frequent looks back across the ancient deer park to the dark side of Longridge Fell and the sunnier Pendle. I’d put some loose change into my pocket so that I could purchase free-range eggs from the honesty box of Saddle End Farm – alas there were none left. We are in the middle of Avian Flu and there seems to be a shortage of eggs everywhere. Are the hens on strike with the rest of the country?
Skipping on, down the lane past mills and old foundries. This was an industrial landscape not so long ago. Now there is a Lancashire cheese factory and the remainder of Kirk Mill.
My ‘find of the day’ was some steps in front of the Chair Work’s cottages. I’ve never noticed them before, but they lead down directly into Chipping Brook, which had powered the mills. For what purpose? Washing place for the cottagers, connected with the cotton era for cleansing the fabrics – I’ve no idea, please help.
I had time for a coffee in the wonderful Cobbled Corner Cafe before catching the 2.30 bus home.
Is it the 5th or 6th of January, Epiphany Eve or Epiphany Day? The celebration of baby Jesus as God incarnate with his visit from the Magi Kings and his revelation to the world. I’m stopping there before I get bogged down in a subject I know little of and which may be solely symbolic after all.
We were always taught as children that it was unlucky to take down the Christmas decorations, mostly Pagan in origin, before the 12th night and even worse to leave them after that. It depends on where you start counting the twelve days from. I’m playing it safe and going for today the 5th of January.
Anyhow, I hope you have all enjoyed the festivities and are looking forward to a bright New Year. Things haven’t gone to plan in my family, but more of that later.
I’m off up the fell to retrieve my Angel added to the Xmas decorated tree up there, in line with the twelfth night. It’s not the best of days. mirky and damp. Gone are the sparkling conditions of that arctic period before Xmas – welcome back to the glorious mud. Somebody else , presumably the tree’s original decorator, keeping to tradition, has cleared the baubles and tinsel I’m pleased to see. The Angel has flown.
I might as well go up to the trig point whilst I am here, another kind of celebration, this time the lure of hill tops. Not being overly obsessive about every hillock and rocky lump in our land I will happily bypass a top if the going is easier around it. But my nearest and dearest trig point is only a few minutes walk away.
An otherwise phantom fell pony is present in the flesh today, I don’t know where they go to at other times. Sometimes there are four or five milling around the summit and then none seen for days. This beast is kicking up quite a fuss, maybe because he has strayed to the wrong side of the wall. The last stile before the summit has taken a severe mauling in recent days. The culprit is unapologetic. This sets me thinking about The Hungry Horse chain of cheap family eateries, you know the thing “Kids eat for a pound” whilst the parents get p*****. Some of their meat is tougher than the woodwork of the stile. I hope I’m not opening myself to libel here – it’s a joke honest.
At the summit I meet a friendly couple, with dogs at heel of course. We pass the time of day with shared experiences of walking our treasured local landscape. At some stage in the conversation I have to apologise for the state of my face. This is the first time I’ve been out in nearly a week since I knocked myself unconscious in a fall outside my back door. I have no recollection of what happened, maybe I was going out to feed the birds or visit the dustbin. I woke up on the concrete, I’d missed the stars if there were any. Did I slip or did I have a ‘dizzy spell’? I’ve no idea, there was no alcohol involved as it was well before teatime. Dragging myself indoors I tentatively assessed the damage – a very sore right side of my skull and face, I’d obviously hit the concrete hard. It was only when I tried to pour a coffee that I realised I had lost my binocular vision. I had a shock looking in the mirror at the state of my right eye, Mike Tyson came to mind. No casualty visit for me thank you, I will do my own head injury monitoring. Not exactly the best policy but I suspect that they might have kept me in the hospital if they had been able to find me a bed. Third World health care demands some self-reliance. By today there are only purple patches on my cheek and a blood shot eye, but enough to frighten the children.
This all comes in the midst of that burst pipe incident I may have mentioned in my last post, the cancellation of our family Christmas due to members’ covid infections, a disruption to my gas supply due to a failure of the ‘smart’ meter and an obvious cancellation of any New Year’s get together. I couldn’t see out of my eye for three days. All is well now apart from the head aches and an inability to chew due to the jaw pain.
The gas problem took some sorting. We all, of a certain age, grumble about modern technology and the convoluted call centres. I spent five hours phoning British Gas on Monday to try and report the problem, I was not in the best of spirits due to the head injury. ‘The current queuing time is 75 minutes‘ was the initial response. Then that person put me through to another department – ‘The current queuing time is 45 minutes, we suggest you use our internet chat room‘ And so on, all accompanied by some weird electronic music. If they played Bob Dylan I would be happy to hang on along with my valued custom, but that would be being too selective. Thinking about it nowadays with all the clever Apps, Logarithms and stored personal data they should be able to come up with Duquesne Whistle just to keep me sweet. After several trips around India I arrived back where I started just as they were closing for the day. My head ached a lot more than it had done a few hours earlier.
The next morning, after a cold miserable night, I dreaded staring again. But maybe the latest phone number was more direct and within 10 minutes I was through to a girl from Essex, suffering from a bad cold, who cottoned on to my problem straight away, OK I did mention I was a vulnerable old man alone in a cold house with no hot water or heating. An emergency appointment with a gas engineer was arranged for that morning, and she phoned back later to see if all had gone well. Perfect customer care. No more jokes about Essex girls please. Why couldn’t it have been that simple the day before, let’s get used to the Third World.
I’ve now a new meter, hot water and heating – all is cosy and rosy for the New Year. until maybe something else creeps up on me unexpectedly.
I ended up doing my usual three-mile figure of eight loop.
But best of all I think the fresh air has cleared my head.
I have never been a fan of Tolkien’s works. I dutifully read The Hobbit way back then but never progressed to The Rings Trilogy. My imagination doesn’t go along with his. Yet here on my doorstep we have a landscape which possibly influenced his writings – the Ribble Valley. He visited Hurst Green and Stonyhurst College where his son was boarding. Hence, a tourist devised Tolkien Trail, wooded valleys and secret riverbanks, has taken shape and become very popular.
I was here today for a short walk mainly to check that past storms haven’t affected an old oak tree by the River Ribble on part of that ‘Tolkien Trail’.
It’s a short day, late up after Xmas day festivities and rain scheduled by noon. I park by that bus stop shelter if you know it above Lower Hodder Bridge. The path to Winkley Hall used to be a boggy affair, but no more. It has been upgraded somehow with stone chippings across the field, an advantage of the popularity of Tolkien.
Through the farm, suitably decorated with Xmas trees, and I’m at the junction of the Hodder and the Ribble in Middle Earth. Here stands a favourite tree of mine, yet another one you may say. The Winkley Oak with its majestic lower bole. How old? Maybe100, 200 or more years. What history has it seen in these parts? It is in good shape I’m glad to see.
Blessings given I carried on my way to the next river junction where the River Calder joins in the fun. There used to be a ferry here and the old boat house is nearby. The river rushed on past Jumbles. A few dog walkers appeared coming from Hurst Green. Another tree took my attention with its skeletal winter outline against the grey sky.
I left the trail and followed a lane to Fox Fields, a curious conglomeration of industrial units, and then I was in all things Hobbity. The Winkley Estate has done up some of its cottages and built a large ‘Wedding Venue’ complete with those ubiquitous pods in the woods. Everywhere are Tolkien references.
I was soon back at the car, mission accomplished. We need more trees in our lives.
I will need longer outings than today’s three miles to walk off the Xmas excesses.
In the middle of this sudden cold snap I hesitate on driving the lanes up onto the Fell, they can be icily treacherous. I can hardly get out of my road which being closed for the gas pipeline has not been gritted – it’s like the proverbial ice rink. But the weather is so good I can’t contain myself any longer. I needn’t have worried the road I take is clear of ice. Parked up I kick myself for not venturing forth the last couple of days. Well I don’t actually kick myself as I’ve strapped on my trusty Grivel Spider 10 point micro spikes. I have used these on Alpine treks (not climbs) and they give me confidence on icy surfaces which can crop up anywhere at altitude or in winter. Today is not the day for a slip or fall. the nurses are on strike for the first time, so casualty will be probably more chaotic than of recent months – if that is possible. I don’t intend to rant about the state of our health service, or any other service for that matter. It’s the season of good will, isn’t it?
There is a spring in my step as I follow the wall up the Fell. A satisfying crunch into the icy surface. Although the temperature is still below zero I’m well wrapped up and able to enjoy the bright sunshine. The familiar Fell Xmas tree winks at me from a distance. On closer acquaintance I see that the angel on top has flown, or some spoil sport has taken it. The season of good will.
At the trig point on Spire Hill, to give it its proper title, I’m joined by an energetic dog walker and then a couple recently moved to the area. We share our enthusiasm for all things Bowland. Across the way the snow is disappearing on the south facing slopes of the Fairsnape/Totridge group. I make a mental note to get up there soon.
Leaving my new-found friends to take a different way off the fell through the trees. I’m on a mission here. There is a straight avenue of trees deep in the forest, probably discovered by mountain bikers, which leads through a tunnel towards the light. At the end of that light I have been trying to capture a spectacular sun setting on the horizon in the gap. It didn’t pan out today at 3.20, still too far in the northern arc. Another couple of days or so and I may be in luck. We are heading to the winter solstice, December 21st this year. Wouldn’t it be great if my line of sight in those trees fell on that day. I’ll be back to try again.
I crunched my way back down the increasingly icy path with the setting sun in my eyes, past those familiar pines.
Over to the east Pendle faded into the distance.
Not bad for a short wintry walk. We need more of these.
I’ve struggled to access my WP account in recent days, so I hope this hits the airwaves. Sorry if I have not commented on your latest posts.
I can’t believe it but on a cold winter’s morning I get mixed up again with a half-marathon run along the cycleway from Halton into Lancaster. Back in the summer I was in the mixt of a larger run, and it proved frustrating on the narrow paths.
So today I took an early opportunity to seek escape up the ramp onto the Lancaster Canal Aqueduct, over the Lune and into quiet countryside. Only the odd dog walkers were met before I disembarked onto the promenade leading around the Bay to Morecambe.
The Lakeland hills were in greyness, but there was an attractive brightness over towards Arnside Knott and Grange on the far side of the Kent estuary. The tide was well out with a lot more sand exposed than I’ve seen before. Wading birds followed the water’s edge but too far away to identify with the naked eye. I couldn’t work out if the scenes with the exposed sands appeared better or gloomier than usual, certainly they were in Winter mode.
The few promenaders with their dogs were well wrapped up in the cold weather. I was soon into town and past Eric’s statue. I was on a mission to have a closer look at the Winter Gardens building, temptingly described in one of Eunice’s recent posts.
Alas, it was all closed up as she had warned us, but I was hoping the café would be operating, but no. I was tempted by Brucciani’s next door, but I had no bike lock. I certainly wasn’t tempted by the noisy amusement arcade on the other side. Adversely this seemed to be the busiest place of the few open on the prom.
I was now wheeling by cycle along the pavements. The old station with its impressive frontage was next. Peeping inside there was a rather lacklustre Xmas fayre in progress. The room was presumably the old spacious waiting hall, in its heyday this station would have been extremely busy bringing tourists to the heart of Morecambe. ‘Bradford-by-the-Sea’. The new station is a bleak platform in an industrial waste – so much for thoughtful planning.
I wandered around the corner to the Festival Market, busier than the station, selling all things cheap and cheerfully. I knew a café inside where I could safely sit with my bike and watch the world go by. Most of the world in here seems to be obese, a sad reflection on deprived Northern areas? Levelling up is never going to catchup (brought up in PMQ today). The Eden project, if the government gives their share of finances, (brought up in PMQ today) would certainly help Morecambe to throw off its undeserved downtrodden reputation. It could have a lot to offer.
I was aware of that reputation as I cycled a particularly dingy rubbish strewn route out of town. There have been knife attacks here recently, and I have often observed druggy characters in the shadows. Nobody is immune from the social deprivations in our modern society. One can’t blame the immigrants, legal or otherwise for everything. We have too much home-grown crime already. There was an interesting article on Byline Times this week on how it felt to be an Albanian in the UK at the moment. I have tried to be objective, I like Morecambe, but there is an underbelly of seediness in the winter air.
Needless to say I was soon into Lancaster, over the Millennium Bridge and racing back to Halton passing the finish line of the half-marathon on the way. It felt good to be out on the bike again.
Our lane is being dug up for a new gas main. They started last Saturday and will be around for 7 – 10 weeks. By the Sunday my gas gave out, there was no note pushed through the door in way of explanation and there were no workmen in the road. With dread, I phoned the help line of Cadent. Remarkably I was speaking to a helpful human within minutes. He saw no reason for my gas to be disconnected. After the usual details were verified he sent me off to the meter cupboard, I grabbed a torch on the way.
“Press button A – what does it say?” “Account”
“Press button B – what does it say?” “No”
“Press both buttons – what does it say?” “OK”
After a few more sequences like this, I don’t have a button C, he instructed to hold button A for 6 seconds.
“What does it say?” “On”
“Go and try your gas hobs” And yes there was a flow of gas, magic. He thought my smart meter had developed a fault possibly with a short interruption to the gas flow on the Saturday, not so smart after all. As customer care services go that was one of the better ones, thank you Cadent.
The week passed as they came and went gradually digging most of the road up. It’s great because there is no longer any through traffic, we have unfortunately become a bit of a rat run in recent years – hasn’t everywhere?. All peace and quiet now except when they star drilling at 7.30 am.
A note was pushed through my door saying they would need access to the property this Saturday whilst they connected me to the new main. That was unfortunate as today was the sunniest day of the week, the high pressure mist having eventually lifted. My gas disappeared in the morning as a gang of workmen descended on the hole outside my house.
I lit my wood burner for the first time this winter, more for Seth my cat than myself, and settled in with a new book. Eventually a couple of likely lads in muddy boots knocked to check my meter. I didn’t like the look of the monkey wrench with which they attacked my fragile looking connecting pipe. Then there was some muttered discussion about the age and state of the stop lever. Every step of their work was duly photographed with a phone, uploaded immediately to head office. They then disappeared for half an hour or so to get some other equipment or inspiration. I was beginning to fear the worst. I pottered in the garden in the beautiful weather. Back they came and had another look without doing anything obvious, leaving me to await an ‘engineer’ in a couple of hours or so to reconnect me and check my appliances. As the afternoon dragged on I was itching to put my boots on and get up the fell to enjoy the brightest of days.
The ‘engineer’ arrived and poked about in the meter box. Mutterings about the wrong readings and he was on the phone to someone. ” I haven’t a F*****G idea what I’m doing” didn’t impress me. I kept looking at the disappearing sunlight, but he stuck to his slow laborious routine. All systems go eventually, and I thanked him for his work, he didn’t seem particularly enthused by it. Everything about my connection to the new gas main had worked well, and I complement Cadent for the operation, although I doubted its outcome at times. There will be a lot more houses to connect and more holes to dig and fill before the lane is open again, but now I’m OK Jack I’ll just relax and enjoy the traffic free few weeks.
I was up the road to Jeffrey Hill in no time for a short walk to the trig point and back. The low winter sunlight was enchanting. At the gate I came across a well-dressed man with a pod stick, tripod and microphone on his lapel. It transpires he has been producing a Vlog on the nearby Roman Road, his site is Roman Gazette if I remember correctly which I will check out later. We chat all things Roman as the shadows are lengthening. It’s now 3.30 as I set off again, everyone else is descending. Chipping Vale takes on some beautiful colours as the sun prepares to set. Up at the wall another decorated Xmas tree has appeared, smaller than the one higher up but with the tinsel glittering in the low sun. It’s a quick turnaround at the trig point, no ponies today. I come back down virtually blinded by the disappearing sun creating an almost Turner like landscape. I add a couple of baubles to the higher tree in passing.
I have just enough time to take a couple of shots of the windblown tree, one of my favourites up here. That reminds me that I should venture along the Hodder and check out that other old favourite – ‘The Winkley Oak’ in case it suffered any damage in last winter’s storms. Quite a few ancient oaks blew down in the Beast from the East.
By the time I hit the road all is dark, and the cars have their headlamps on. Strangely when I arrive in the car park there are still half a dozen cars, are people camping on the fell or just misjudged how quickly it becomes almost pitch dark?
An hour walk snatched from the end of a glorious day.
I’m happy to switch on my gas central heating and find everything in good order, it could have gone horribly wrong as in this little ditty from the past. How many of you member it?
One never knows when there could be a cloud inversion up on the fell. Last year I experienced a couple of almost perfect days up there.
The gloom down here is all-pervading. I struggle to do the daily Wordle, drinking coffee in bed. The morning is slipping away. My lane is closed to traffic at the moment for a new gas pipeline. So all peace and quiet until the gas people start drilling away outside my house. One can’t switch off easily to pneumatic drilling, so I have to get up, the rest of the week I hadn’t bothered. High pressures at this time of year gives dry and windless days but once the cloud is down it stays that way forever.
I should have taken my bike to Halton and cycled the usual way through Morecambe along the bay. But somehow I hadn’t the motivation. Taking the easy way out I decided to head up the fell. The short drive up there in mist didn’t bode well for views. I must avoid as much as possible long drives for walks next year, for the planet and my purse. It’s always next year. Parked up I was surprised by the number of cars already there.
My short walk to the summit and back was punctuated by several conversations with fellow walkers.
There were the dog walkers, lots of them, with energetic spaniels. Hardly stopping for a sniff at me, the dogs I mean, but all enthusiastic to be out whatever the weather. All very friendly. The weather was actually better than expected, no wind and almost a decent cloud inversion over Chipping Vale. Not good enough for photos.
A couple were steaming up behind me, they recognised me, I struggled to place them initially. Friends from my lad’s school days, played in my garden and remembered me climbing up my house walls. It was great to catch up and how lovely to see how mature and pleasant people are, we are a friendly lot in Longridge, but all is changing. That gas pipe is for the hundreds of houses being built in our once tight-knit community.
The next encounter was with the fell ponies which sometimes appear. Sturdy equines milling around the trig point.
The fairy or is it an angel has appeared on the fell Christmas tree, it needs a few more baubles.
I stop once again for a conversation with an ascending hiker “I’m only 85 he declares” The fell is for everybody as he disappears into the mist. Let’s hope I’m still coming up here in the next decade and the younger walkers will stop and encourage me onwards.
It’s time I did my irregular litter pick up here, there were lots of doggy poo bags and discarded tissues to remove. Maybe tomorrow if this depressing cloud persists. it must be better than the world football on TV.
A rather sad reminder of how we all did lock down. Or is it an omen for our fractured society?
It is still foggy down in Longridge, and they are still digging up the road. I drag my rusty exercise bike from the garage to the kitchen though I doubt it will be my salvation.
With the trees almost bare of leaves we saw extra detail today on our stroll out of Hurst Green. Mike had phoned me the night before thinking it could be a dry day, at least in the morning. My knee was painful from Saturday’s walk around the Silverdale area, but I didn’t like to put him off – I have done so several times recently. I picked him up as his car was looking worse for wear after a close encounter with an HGV. He is slowly working his way through the maze of insurance reports.
Parking up opposite the Bayley Arms which is sadly once more deserted and neglected. It is a difficult time for the hospitality trade, but it would appear that it was being poorly managed according to the ubiquitous Tripadvisor. Hurst Green is in the civil parish of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley. I’m mentioning this because Mike spotted the pub’s alternative name spelling at odds with the ‘official’. The parish is stuffed with listed buildings many associated with Stonyhurst College and estate. The diverse architecture of the area does make it an ideal rambling venue for anyone with a historical interest. I restrain myself from photographing most of the gems passed today, well only a couple. The rest are hidden in my previous posts.
We suspect the Tolkien Trail will be very muddy, and it is becoming overused. So we head in the other direction dropping down to Dean Brook with its remnants of the water powered industries of previous centuries. Bobbin and spindle workings were common hereabouts supplying the flourishing Lancashire cotton mills. Mill races, previous ponds and evidence of damming seem more obvious today in the sunshine. The water is very lively after heavy rain. I used to bring my children and subsequently grandchildren along here, it was a favourite spot for ‘pooh sticks’ launched from the bridge and then followed downstream as far as possible. Today you would not have able to keep pace.
I divert from the path to show Mike the abandoned Sand Quarry which provided the building blocks for much of Hurst Green. I had forgotten how extensive it had been, again everything looked clearer with the bare trees. Years ago Simon and I climbed an exciting route up the middle of the largest rock face using many of the features left by the quarrymen – shot holes and incut slots. It all looked overgrown today – nature slowly taking over.
Onwards we went up the old cart track from the bridge. How many times have I photographed Greengore, an old hunting lodge, but today I found a different angle which highlighted its impressive southern frontage.
Once on the top road we just ambled along catching up on the news, there were few cars to disturb us. Down the lane back to Stonyhurst we passed the well known Pinfold Cross commemorating a worker’s untimely death. Cometh the hour.
And on past what had been the stables for the horse-drawn sledges pulling stone down from Kemple End Quarry, better quality than Sand Rock, to build the college and its houses. You can still follow the line of the sunken track up the fellside. The tumble down barn has been recently restored and upgraded to an upmarket holiday cottage.
We debated which route to take back to the village – go right and stay on the road all the way or continue down and follow a way through Stonyhurst College. We went for the more interesting latter knowing that it would entail a muddy section towards the end.
The college forefront was busy with coaches ferrying pupils around. The main building is under wraps for some restoration but the elaborate finials and roofline of St. Peter’s Church was just waiting to be photographed against the autumn sky. Here is my modest result – only to be approached by ‘security’ to say no photography. Why? Children’s dormitories. What in the church? I hope I don’t offend anybody with my picture.
The muddy stretch has been improved by a short section of tarmacked track on the hill heading into Hurst Green. We entered in by the old smithy and the Almshouses and it started raining as we drove home over the fell Cometh the hour.
I find myself climbing a minor limestone cliff on a ‘footpath’ in the environs of Silverdale. That was not what I wanted with my dodgy knee. I push on, having to check my position using my phone and eventually reappear onto lanes I recognise and make it back to Leighton Moss car park at the end of a grand outing.
We are a very diverse county, last week I was in the industrial eastern mill valleys. Now I’m on the coastal fringe in sylvan limestone country. Limestone knolls and salt marches around Silverdale. I should have come by train to Silverdale Station as the guide book hints at, I reflect upon that and think long and hard how I could reduce my car mileage by taking the train in future. One problem that as I live in Longridge I have to take a bus into Preston and then walk across to the station, there is no integrated transport connection. That is just an excuse. But there again they are on strike this weekend – you can’t win.
Walk 19 of Mark Sutcliffe’s guide, Silverdale and Wharton Crag. I can’t find anywhere to park at the station so drive around to Leighton Moss, the RSPB reserve and centre. As a member I feel justified using their car park. I’m the only one without a telescopic scope heading for the causeway across the march. I wonder why there is a causeway in the first place. Halfway across is a bird hide with views across the open water. There are swans and cormorants, ducks and geese. My camera is in for repair, I am reliant on my inadequate phone so don’t waste much time on photography.
At the end of the causeway a lane leads up into the grounds of Leighton Hall. This was the home of legendary Lancaster furniture magnate, Richard Gillow, it is still in the family. Today it is closed to visitors, but there are sounds of shooting from the woods above. It is open pheasant shooting season, and it doesn’t sit well with the RSPB reserve below. Do these toffs still need to carry out these barbaric practices? They can be seen heading for a resplendent lunch before making a reappearance later in the day.
The energetic hill ahead of me soon clears my militant thoughts. At the top there are seats with views back over Leighton Hall, the marshes, limestone escarpments and far away the Lakeland Hills. What a grand day to be out.
I relax on quiet country lanes until a sudden right turn up a steep bridleway has me huffing and puffing, the path is obvious taking me into the Wharton Nature Reserve. I have inadvertently left my trekking poles at home and miss their aid and added stability on the steep rocky ground. The limestone bedrock pokes through the surface giving a slippery passage.
Not sure how I find myself on the summit of Warton Crag but here is the trig point and the metal beacon. I find a place to sit and look out at the view across the sands of Morecambe Bay. Checking the surroundings for stray dogs I get out my sandwich and flask. What a place for a picnic.
Back at the bridleway, Occupation Road an old drover’s lane, which takes me down to Crag Foot with its chimney. The chimney once served a coal-fired water pump which drained land now occupied by the Leighton Moss reserve. Rising coal prices during the First World War led to the discontinuation of pumping and waterlogging of the once very productive farmland.
The path across the marshes is flooded in places, but I arrive at Jenny Brown’s Point virtually dry footed. There are good view back to Warton Crag. The chimney here is the remains of a short-lived copper smelting project in the 1780s.
The house at the point doesn’t want people using the public right of way through their property and have a plethora of Private Signs this side. I balance past precariously outside their wall only to find more helpful signs on the other side. (I love these Peak and Northern Footpath signs which keep cropping up in my posts) In future, I will know which way to take. Presumably when they purchased the property they were aware of the right of way, I put this down to arrogance on their part.
The lane is familiar to me, I could have taken paths along the cliff faces, but I’m happy to stroll into the outskirts of Silverdale. It was from there that following the guide’s route felt at odds, I was clueless as to my whereabouts and was hoping ‘beatingthebounds’ would make an appearance to direct me across Lambert’s Meadow, but I made it back. Time for a brew with Sir Hugh in nearby Arnside.
I’m being unkind there, the darker side of the Pennines is actually in the White Rose county. But it is often gloomy as you drive down through these eastern Lancashire valleys with the prominent Peel Tower watching over you.
Walk 28, Holcombe Moor from Ramsbottom promised “A non-too-demanding walk from the endearingly quirky of Ramsbottom up onto the moors and back in time for coffee and cake – or a pint – in one of many inviting bars and cafés” That turned out to be a little short on the detail, both good and bad, but we are out for adventure and discovery after all.
Ramsbottom, forget the corny jokes, is, or was a solid Lancashire Mill town. Wikipedia as usual has more than enough information. It is now an apparently thriving, on the evidence of all the people there today, shopping destination. Its strength is the number of independent businesses both basic and frivolous. Parking was not easy on a busy Saturday. The station, one of the main attractions, with sometimes steam hauled trains up the valley on the East Lancs Railway was just around the corner. Only diesels today but come later and there will be Santa Specials.