Tag Archives: Long Distance Walks

THE WAY OF THE CROW. Fifth day, Postern Gate to The Lune.

                    The classic English countryside of Qurnmore Hall Park.

Quernmore Park estate forms the most formidable obstacle to our straight line route and over the last week in anticipation Sir Hugh and I have been plotting a military style assault. Using aerial photos and maps we have tried to find a way through, unobserved, without too many unclimbable fences, we have more plan A, B, C and D’s than the present Brexit debacle. There’s not a public footpath in sight. However our chief negotiator is highly skilled and has behind the scenes obtained permission from the owners to walk through on the forbidden lane. Here we are at the Postern Gate on a bright afternoon ready to stride past all the private signs to join the privileged classes.

The hall itself was well hidden behind walls and security gates.

To be honest we enjoyed our passage through the grounds even being greeted by the owner half way through.

At the end we emerged at the North Lodge onto a busy road, which would not have been pleasant or safe to walk along, a quick climb over a gate had us into a steep field leading down towards the River Lune. Fortunately another fence assault brought us onto the Lune Valley Ramble route and a clear walk along the old Lancaster to Wennington railway, closed under the Beeching axe in the 1960s and now a landscaped cycle path as far as Bull Beck, Caton. A complete contrast to the previous parkland.

On the opposite bank were new houses built since my last visit. They looked like affordable housing and were impressively roofed in solar panels.

The old station at Halton was busy, not with passengers but with students gathering for an afternoon’s rowing on the river. They have use of the listed building as a boat house which according to their coach costs a fortune.

A satisfying short walk through forbidden ground, all should be easy from now on.

*****

THE WAY OF THE CROW. Fourth day, Lentworth to Postern Gate, Quernmore.

                                                               Clougha Pike.

Serendipity – whilst we were looking for ways into the extensive private Quernmore Hall estate blocking our ongoing straight line a car drew up and out stepped the daughter of the owners! A pleasant chat ensured and we had their contact phone number for possible further progress on another day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today should be easy walking , paths and lanes keep close to our ‘line’. Last night I’d been kept awake by heavy rainfall, frequent showers and gales were forecast but we set off and enjoyed sunshine and a bracing breeze. A quiet lane climbed away from the Wyre valley giving us a gentle warmup. Opposite the Quaker Friends Meeting House a carved stone was placed close to the stile we needed, we conjectured as to its antiquity. Once across a couple of swampy agricultural fields,  we approached a ramshackle farmyard, Low Moorhead, with trepidation, dogs and obstructions looked imminent. Another carved stone took our attention. As it happened the friendly farmer was busy nearby and we ascertained that he and his wife had created the stones rather than some medieval mason, we congratulated him on their artistry.

Most of the day we traversed Daleslike farmland below Grit Fell and Clougha Pike, gritstone moors above with Morecombe Bay spread out below. Our incursion onto the rough fell, boggy reeds, was not succesful and we were glad to hit the road and subsequently return into pheasant woods. The ‘beast from the east’ had been active here and we picked our way through the fallen trees.

Our incursion onto the rough fell, boggy reeds, was not succesful and we were glad to hit the road and subsequently return into pheasant woods. The ‘beast from the east’ had been active here and we picked our way through the fallen trees.

The last mile or so was along a supposedly quiet lane leading to those private woods above Postern Gate, the only highlight apart from a rainbow above the green valley was Quernmore Church.

*****

 

THE WAY OF THE CROW. Third day, Arbour to Lentworth Hall.

Distant Ward’s Stone Fell.

First a moan…                                                                                                                                             The Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 ( the CROW Act, not the crow we are following )  gives a public right of access to land mapped as ‘open country’  known as open access land. A large area of the Bowland Fells are so designated which should give some degree of freedom to roam on the moorlands. However not all is as it seems. The 1:25,000 OS maps highlight open access land with  orange shading but the areas do not always link up with the public rights of way, creating a problem of reaching the access area in the first place. There are actually some ‘islands’ of access land with no access! This morning we are faced with one of these dilemmas, the lane back to Arbour is private for the first kilometre [red dots] so the logical way into the access area is denied legally. Who came up with these walker unfriendly ideas? I’m afraid those powerful landowners had too much influence when the plans were being drawn .Anyhow here we are back at the Arbour shooting lodge in its remote setting, ready for another ‘up and over’. Today we have to climb over Stake House and Grizedale Fells. There is still no sign of the rhino. We take the opportunity of some shelter by the lodge to divest of some clothing before the sweaty climb. A vague track is lost and then found as we puff up the steep slope alongside a series of very posh shooting butts. This track in fact takes us to the unmarked summit of Stake House, 402m, where we can admire views of Morecambe Bay, the Clougha Pike, Grit Fell, Ward’s Stone and Wolfhole Fell group with  the Trough Of Bowland spread out below. We take a compass bearing to a pond which should be near the start of the track at Grizesdale Head. We are in the middle of a wilderness here though the going is better than we’d anticipated, short heather and not too much bog. The weather is changeable!

A hazy Morecambe Bay with another storm coming in.

 

Wilderness – on a compass bearing.

 

Out of nowhere a gate in the boundary fence appears and this gives us easy access to the landrover track we are relying on to take us off the moors. We do so in swoops down the hillside as the weather takes a turn for the worse, wind and hail. At the road we are glad to hide behind a wall for lunch and watch the lazy antics of some contractors trying to offload fence posts. I do not envy their work outside in these conditions.

Opposite is a private lane to Catshaw Farms which is right on our route line, we wave enthusiastically at farm workers who pass us but nobody seems bothered by our presence. Once at the large farm complex we are back on public rights of way. Catshaw Hall Farm dates from the 17C, grade II listed with mullioned windows. There was work going on today.Muddy fields drop down towards the River Wyre where many trees are down from recent storms.   At a side stream the path has been washed away leading to some undignified bum sliding to reach the newly reconstructed footbridge. The bridge over The Wyre is made of sturdier timbers.  I realise have been here before.

Steep slippy steps bring us into fields belonging to Lentwoth Hall, now divided into apartments.

The final lane with ‘walking’ trees.

This whole area of Abbeystead is part of the Grosvenor estate owned by the Dukes Of Westminster. It holds the record for the biggest grouse bag in a day. On 12 August 1915, 2,929 birds were shot by eight shooters. We have survived the day through their estate and will carry on no doubt to trespass further estates on our straight line. I’m glad we finished when we did as the weather became atrocious, it’s the first day of winter tomorrow.

*****

 

 

THE WAY OF THE CROW. Second day, Bleasdale to Arbour, Calder Valley.

JD seemed worried when I described the next leg of our straight line way – “it is extremely rough going, the game keepers are unfriendly and there are rumours of a wild rhinoceros”. Despite all that he agreed to join us on his recommended shortened version. The picture above was taken from his house when I picked him up in the morning, The Bleasdale Fells which we had to cross are to the left of the higher Fairsnape group. Beacon Fell is far left.

The car park at Bleasdale Church was busy with Sunday worshippers.

It was a glorious sunny morning as we used field paths into the heart of Bleasdale discussing our individual Saturday night’s exploits, I probably had the largest hangover, Sir Hugh had been consructing a cat flap and JD entertaing his family.

Donning extra layers when we realised how cold it was.

No that’s not the rhino but pretty scary anyhow.

After the isolated Hazelhurst Farm we found the beginnings of a land rover track that would, via a series of zigzags, take us steeply into the open access area and onto the fell top. We puffed our way up with frequent stops to admire the views over the nearby Fairsnape/Parlick fells with Bleasdale and  the Fylde below. Surprisingly and fortunately another quad track led to the remote trig point, 429m, of Hazelhutst Fell. We are on grouse shooting moors up here and much has been written about the persecution of other wildlife in this vicinity to try to promote the shooting fraternity. Whatever one’s opinions about grouse shooting I am strongly against the wilful and unlawful killing of our protected species. On this stretch of the walk we came across several loaded Fenn Traps which are legally only allowed for stoat trapping [killing] but are known to trap other species. These are lethal looking spring-loaded traps which could almost take the tip off your walking pole.

From the trig point there were hazy views across Morecambe Bay to Black Combe and Barrow. Taking a compass bearing we set off across the heather in a NNW direction and fortunately found another quad bike track taking us down past shooting butts so avoiding all the heavy going. After what I’ve said about the grouse shooting land owners we were thankful for their tracks. The final descent was vertiginous. The surroundings were reminiscent of a Scottish Glen and we found the bridge over the Calder to the Victorian shooting cabin of Arbour. This must be one of the best kept secrets of Lancashire.

We found a sheltered spot out of the cold east wind for lunch. There were no windows into the shooting lodge to see the rhinoceros head. The story goes that a rhino escaped from a train near Garstang and had to be shot, it’s trophy head being mounted in the lodge.

By now all the excitement was over and we had an easy walk out on the track alongside the River Calder.  We were back at Sir Hugh’s car much sooner than we’d planned because of those good moorland tracks. We will have to walk back in next time to rejoin our line.

*****

 

THE WAY OF THE CROW. First day, Longridge to Bleasdale.

I was apprehensive, walking in a straight line as possible would take us on unfrequented paths, would the way be feasible. We left the village down overgrown Gypsy Lane and shortly after found a gate secured by a cord, a veritable Gordian Knot. Out came Sir Hugh’s, I’ll blame him, Swiss Army Knife and we were through.

‘Gypsy Lane’

We passed the ponds, ‘figure of eight’ where my children used to go fishing without much success but I’m sure they had an adventure away from parental supervision – they never drowned so I must have been doing something right.

The next farm-yard, where I’d previously climbed walls to escape, was now well signed and we even had a resident directing us to the hidden stile ahead though the accompanying foot plank, couldn’t call it a bridge, didn’t inspire confidence.

The slippery plank.

We reached a farm gate on a public footpath which was securely padlocked, no Swiss Army knife could cope, but as if on cue a lady drove up in her battered pick-up and opened up for us. Remonstrating about obstructed footpaths didn’t seem to be appropriate. All was pleasant rural scenery with scattered farms, some in better condition than others.

The next problem was of our creation, contentedly walking along the tiny River Loud we were almost in someone’s back garden when we realised we’d missed our path but fortunately a gate allowed our escape onto the road.

The infant Loud.

Things improved as we headed closer towards the Bowland Hills and Bleasdale. We passed the small rural Bleasdale School and headed for the church where our car was parked. We were last here in gale force Ali. A group of fell runners were just setting off for a quick few miles and we exchanged pleasantries. Walkers, climbers , cyclists, runners tend to have a common background.

Is that an Ofsted verdict?

We had completed the first leg of our project with very little deviation from the straight and narrow and to be honest no serious obstacles except a lot of slippery stiles. Our way ahead over Hazelhurst Fell could be seen, the fell runner is pointing the way, but will there be any paths?

Yet another slippery stile.

***** 

THE WAY OF THE CROW. LONGRIDGE TO ARNSIDE.

My good friend Sir Hugh  [http://conradwalks.blogspot.com/ ] inhabits that lovely village Arnside whereas I have to put up with the gross overdevelopment of Longridge. For the last few winters we have had projects to keep us active in the shorter days. He has emailed once or twice with suggestions for this year but nothing has struck me as original, boringly I seem to have walked most of the Long Distance Paths in the NW. I came up with a counter suggestion – why don’t we draw a straight line between our houses and follow it as closely as possible. I know this idea has been used before, particularly successfully  by Nic Crane on his straight line Two Degrees West journey from Berwick-on-Tweed to The Isle of Purbeck. I seem to remember he gave himself  a kilometre leeway either side but had a lot of media support, I wonder if we could be even stricter. True to form Sir High has taken the bait and the line has been drawn.

It is the wrong time of year for backpacking so we will split the route into day walks. The distance as the crow flies is 26.5 miles but we will be lucky to keep it under 35 miles. No rules except keeping as close to the line as possible preferably on footpaths or quiet lanes, legal ground or not. There are some obvious obstacles in the way – the fells of Bleasdale, the Rivers Wyre and Lune, Quernmore Hall Estate and the M6. It will be a challenge overcoming them, lets get started.

THE SEFTON COASTAL PATH. Formby to Crossens.

I’m the only person on the beach and I can hear music across the dunes,     yes that is the ‘Last Post’ being played and I realise it is the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. What a place I’d found to quietly contemplate. Of course 2018 is 100 years since the end of WW1 and special events are being held, on the train this morning were army cadets off to one. I didn’t know at this time that back on Formby beach the face of one of the fallen soldiers was being temporally created in the sands. I’d arrived onto the southern end of Southport beach to escape the busy road I’d found myself walking on, another example of the present deficits of the Sefton Coastal Path.

An early start from my airbnb and I was back at Freshfield station and walking through the golf course which was already busy. In Ainsdale Dunes I followed the SCP as marked on my leaflet. This started really well through the woodland, no Red squirrels, and the undulating track was popular with dog walkers, runners and cyclists. The rain started heavily just as I emerged from the tree cover onto a less pleasant track so finding a marked trail leading back into the dunes and trees I blindly followed thinking it would take me back to the coast so I could avoid the busy coast road.

There were enticing tracks everywhere in this attractive wilderness and I somehow arrived at the depot of Natural England who care for the area. Sheltering under a store for a snack gave me time to speak to one of the wardens who admitted that it is a well kept secret. He pointed me on a way to the coast and I was back in the expansive dunes. Walking was not easy once the path was lost. As I headed for the coast I could see Pontins Holiday Camp looming in front of me and made the mistake of avoiding it on the right which had me alongside that busy road.

Simple but very effective stile on NE Reserve.

 

I don’t want to be here…

… or here.

After the dismal looking Pontins I continued for 2 miles up the lonely beach towards the pier and then began to worry about getting back to solid land before the tide turned, there seemed to be a lot of marshy grassland to cross. What followed was not pleasant, 300m of bog hopping with some sizeable channels  amongst the reeds, more serious than I thought. Time for a sit down and a sandwich – phew. Across the bay was Blackpool and Lytham, I’m just glad I won’t be attempting any more of the coast  – too many inlets to negotiate. By now the tide had come right in to the sea wall and the sun had come out.

What’s the history of this case?

Here is the start of the Trans Pennine Cycling Trail and there were sculptures to mark it. Seaside resorts look empty in the winter but the boating lake was busy. An easy stretch along the promenade was marred by the constant traffic.

Start of the Trans Pennine Trail.

At the first opportunity I took a side road which gave access to a lovely footpath across a golf course and then into the RSPB’s Marshside Reserves. The afternoon was sunny by now and the paths were popular with locals and their dogs. On my right was a housing estate and on the left the marshy reserves with lots of distant bird life but without binoculars identification becomes guesswork. Ahead I could see the distant Bowland Fells which appeared giants in the clear sky. At the end a walk alongside a Ribble Estuary drainage channel brought me conveniently to my bus stop home.

Sefton Coastal Walk has been mixed with plenty of highlights and quite a few lows. Some of the latter were unavoidable and some were my mistake, a decent map would help as would waymarking through the forests and dunes, and local knowledge of the beaches and tides.  I suspect it was designed by committee rather than enthusiastic walkers. Nonetheless a decent 23 mile walk fortunately blessed with decent weather.

*****