Feeling rather despondent after struggling to cycle around Longridge Fell the other day. I had been hoping soon to embark on a multiday cycle tour but now I was full of doubts, what would be my daily mileage. Realistically, I should be able to average 40 miles or more per day in hilly country, but I thought I was falling short of that. I’m getting older and I don’t have a scale to measure myself against, what I could do 30 or even 20 years ago doesn’t apply any more. I’m getting out of my depth.
I eventually stirred myself this morning as the weather brightened — time to test myself. From my house to the top of Jeffrey Hill is a mere 4 miles but is constantly uphill with 700ft of ascent. I aimed to cycle it without a break. Today’s route is in red compared to the circuitous blue of a few days ago.
I started slowly up through Longridge’s burgeoning housing estates. Summoning up some speed to pass the dog walkers, trying to not look out of breath. At the golf club the road was closed for drainage works but I squeezed through to remount and climb triumphantly to the summit of Jeffrey Hill just past the car park. Views of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills in one direction, the Three Peaks in the centre and Pendle in the other direction were too hazy for photography. A swoop down to the New Drop, now sold and being converted into apartments, and a right hand turn to follow the undulating road back past Craig Y, Upper Dilworth Reservoir and into town.
Approaching Jeffrey Hill.
Down to the New Drop.
Upper Dilworth Reservoir and The Fylde.
This took me just over an hour and I felt quite pleased with myself, slow but steady. I wouldn’t win any race, but I had proved to myself that my legs and lungs still have it. I’m trying to convince myself that cycling is wonderful. My next ride — that road going the full length of the fell to Birdy Brow and the Hodder. Watch this space, not that it will be very interesting.
Blue skies, sunshine and calm conditions, perfect for a local cycle ride. Longridge Fell is my regular walking ground, but today I was going to circumnavigate it on lanes from Longridge. You will notice my post is titled ‘around’ and not ‘up’, I had no intention of cycling the high road over the fell, there are enough undulations on the planned circuit.
There was a chill in the Autumn air but by the time I arrived in Chipping I was suitably warmed up. The road I took follows the north side of Longridge Fell before dropping to Higher Hodder bridge. A steep little hill up past a once popular inn had me puffing and to be honest I was always a little out of breath on any incline from then on, I’m having difficulty getting cycling fit. Walking is so much more relaxing.
Great Mitton and its Medieval Church are skirted, then the road winds up through the Ribble Valley to Hurst Green. I’d planned a break here as there are seats on the village green. A walker with his Spaniel had bagged the best one, but I ate my banana on an adjacent bench before going over for a chat about all things local, a pleasant diversion.
Back in the saddle, I was soon back into Longridge, feeling rather tired from this modest ride. I had covered 22 miles but had ascended 1600ft in the process, there are no flat roads in the Ribble Valley.
And that’s about it. I didn’t take many photos.
Couldn’t resist another picture of Cromwell’s Bridge over the Hodder.
Hurst Green interlude.
On arrival back home this gigantic corkscrew had arrived on the building site opposite me. Earlier in the year we, the local residents, stopped Barratts, in the guise of homely David Wilson Homes, from disruptive pile driving on this site which is probably unsuitable in the first place for building on due to the shifting sands. They are now having to drill down 30–40 ft to find solid ground, don’t buy a house on Inglewhite Meadow.
I was back up there tonight. As I walked in, I could see the six ducklings swimming about below. Their activity seemed frenetic – darting hither and thither. But no sign of Mother Duck. My anxiety rose, suspecting her fate. How would the ducklings survive?
I sat around in the light rain watching their activities.
Thankfully after perhaps an hour in flew Mother Duck who immediately took control of the situation and heralded her offspring into the dense bracken with much chirping and squeaking. They will be safe tonight.
Whilst poking about on one of the quarry walls I became aware of a constant buzzing noise. Wasps were flying about, and there in front of me was the biggest wasps’ nest I’ve ever seen, over a foot high. Time to retreat.
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.
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”.
It was a lovely evening when I got round to another litter pick on Longridge Fell, I’ve been away. A Sunday often gives good results. The fields below in the Chipping valley were a wonderful patchwork as some have been cut ahead of others. The usual cans and crisp packets occupy the first few hundred metres from the car park. From then on there was little in evidence, perhaps someone else is covering the same route? Tonight however I must have been following in the footsteps of a chain smoker as there were cigarette butts at regular intervals, 20 a day? I don’t know how he or she had the puff to get to the top. As well as being a litter problem, I wondered about the fire hazard, as the fell is much drier than usual..
On the way back down, curlews were making a racket and sure enough a dog walker had his spaniel running around the fell. Of course, “he was well-behaved off the lead”
A little farther I came across a bird watcher I knew, he’d also had words with the dog walker to no avail. We chatted about curlews and other species still to be seen up here.
By the time I got back to the car, the sun’s rays were becoming weaker. Always a walk worth doing.
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.
I’m fascinated by the history of the countryside. I glean as much as I can from books, maps and the internet. The origin of names: lost houses and tracks: the local industries from way back: family trees and intrigue. So when I come across a reliable source of information to one of my regular walking areas I’m delighted. The area in question is Hurst Green and Stonyhurst and somebody has set up a Facebook page dealing with precisely that. https://www.facebook.com/hurstgreenandstonyhursthistory
I was alerted to it by a comment from its author on my Stonyhurst crosses walk for which I found it difficult to obtain information. I have some catching up to do with the posts so far, but I did notice one on a waterfall on Dean Brook below Hurst Green – Raven Lumb Falls. Over the years I have scrambled up a few of the brooks coming down from Longridge Fell to the Ribchester and Hurst Green areas, but I was unaware of this location. It didn’t take me long to identify its approximate position on the OS map and this morning I set off to explore.
Hurst Green was busy with walkers, most probably following the Tolkien Trail which I did a few weeks ago. Today I set off down Lambing Clough Lane, there were certainly plenty of lambs about. At the ‘farm’ I took a public footpath, strangely unsigned, down towards Dean Brook where it is joined by Bailey Brook at a footbridge. There is an open green area here, locally referred to as Pickleholme. I now followed the stream up into Merrick’s Wood.
Celandines and Wood Anemones were still in flower, but as a bonus the Bluebells were just coming into bloom in blue patches under the trees.
There was more water in the brook than I had expected after all this dry weather, I would have been better in wellingtons to walk directly upstream, as it was, I used precarious little tracks with an ever present risk of tumbling down the steep bank into the water.
Anyhow, I made progress until at a bend the fall came into view. The water had carved out a passage through the sandstone cliff. Care was needed boulder hopping here as I don’t think anyone would have found me if I’d had an accident. The grid reference, for anyone foolish enough to follow in my footsteps, SD 6830 3746.
What a delightful spot deep in the woods with a lively flow of water. There was some tat left by gill scramblers from Hothersall Hall. The rope was in bad condition so I removed what I could reach. I need to return when the water level is even lower to try and scramble up the falls.
I sat for half an hour and watched a Dipper coming backwards and forwards, with grubs in its mouth, to a nest hidden in the rock. A pair of Grey Wagtails, or Yellow? were flitting about in the stream.
What a pleasant way to spend a morning.
When I arrived back at the Shireburn Alms the beer garden, sorry dining terrace, was full of diners enjoying the sunshine and their freedom to eat out. A far cry from down below.
We, us old farts, used to climb with a fit young lad who shall remain nameless. Regular evening visits to Lancashire quarries in the summer months provided good sport. He was pushing his grade, as a young man should, but often was lowered to the ground defeated by a high crux move which one of us old timers could easily demonstrate to him. Chastened he would apply himself to the next problem with often the same result.
It was only in the pub afterwards that an analysis of the evenings climbing took place. Typically, we focused on his failings and inevitably came to the conclusion he was carrying too much weight. This lead to, and I apologise as from now, describing him as a ‘fat bastard’. We did have his interests at heart as this insulting banter resulted in him disappearing, dieting and training to re-emerge the next week to climb as good if not better than us.
Someday I will write about climbing trips with this youth in question to places far from Lancashire and the resulting adventures. I will of course need his permission first.
Anyhow, today the boot, or climbing shoe, is on the other foot. I used to climb in a quarry high on Longridge Fell hidden in the conifer plantations – I called it Sweden for no other reason than the trees. Only I and a few others knew about it, and slowly it became overgrown as these places do. But it was there at the back of my mind and when social distancing became the norm, and I was wary of climbing in crowded Craig Y Longridge …
A crowded Craig y Longridge.
… I revisited Sweden.
Basically it is a large hole in the ground. The walls tend to be damp and uninviting but on an upper level there is a clean wall getting the sun all day. A few days getting rid of the vegetation that had encroached in the intervening years, and I was ready to try the problems that I had recorded 25 years ago. Armed with my tatty guide from then I began to repeat the problems. They were much harder than I remember and also apparently much higher despite the use of a modern day crash mat.
I went back the next night and collected a bag full of litter; cans, bottles, crisp packets, coffee cups and of course dog poo bags. A satisfying outing.
Today I thought it was time to repeat the exercise following the influx of Easter visitors. I parked at the usual spot on Jeffrey Hill and set off on my regular walk up to the trig point on Longridge Fell and was pleased to see there was very little litter – have I a competitor picker? I still managed to fill a carrier bag with mainly dog poo bags.
The highlight of the walk however was the number of couples I passed who thanked me for the effort and how they should do the same. I thus had several conversations of a varied nature.
A Bangladeshi family were not so much interested in the litter picking but were keen to seek directions for the best paths, this was the first visit for them. They seemed adventurous so I sent them on a circular walk through the trees which they seemed to have enjoyed when I bumped into them later in the afternoon. We recalled days in Blackburn where I used to visit for Asian groceries and little backstreet cafés serving Dahl and chappatis to immigrant workers, my grounding in authentic curries.
A couple from down the road thought we should all get together on Facebook and have organised clean-ups, I ignored that idea but we discussed all things Longridge.
A couple from Blackpool were walking several little dogs, all sensibly on the lead. It turned out they owned a hotel in Blackpool and obviously had done virtually no business in the last year. They were not hopeful for a quick return to business this summer, opening to less than full capacity with all the costly restrictions, having to take staff back on etc and then to find themselves closed again within weeks. That must be a recurring dilemma for the catering and hospitality sector.
I mention that they had their dogs under control as a little further on were two young women with dogs running wild over the fell side. I politely mentioned that all dogs should be on a short lead at this time of year as is clearly signed at all access points. “Nobody told us that” was their response – I suggested they read the notices at the gate where they had come from on their return. They did however put the dogs on leads, at least while I was in view.
As I neared the finish of my round whilst my hands were freezing, did I mention the sleet flurries we had from time to time? I met a hardy soul who had walked up from Longridge, he does it most days. As is usual when we meet we discuss the wildlife that is around, he doesn’t miss a thing. His hope is that when the lockdown eases the hordes that have been parked up on Longridge Fell will disperse and leave us in peace.
Lockdown eased yesterday but from the pictures of rubbish in the Lake District perhaps for some a few days earlier, I am concerned about our ability to come out of lockdown safely and it is not helped by what I see today.
The hottest day of the year so far as I walk up to the trig point on Longridge Fell. Within yards of the car park I come across litter in the form of bottles and cans, masks and yes, dog poo bags all recently discarded.
It was only last year that barbecues set light to this area, we were lucky the fire brigade dealt with it so quickly and efficiently. When will it happen again?
I became irritated and even more so when I see a lady with four dogs running loose, dogs must be on a leash from March 1st because of ground nesting birds. Calling her she answers that she has badly strained her ankle and is trying to hobble back to the car park. I wonder if she ever had the dogs on lead in the first place, but give her the benefit of the doubt and wish her well getting back.
The top of the fell is reached without further problems apart from deep mud. A charming Japanese man with his daughter and friend are admiring the views, he remarks on the tranquilly of the scene. I have to agree and also enquire how he kept his trainers so clean walking up through the peat bogs.
Onwards into the woods and out onto the path past the grandiose gate to the kennels.
There were two heads bobbing up and down along with the frogs in the small reservoir lower down, the two ladies have swum all winter, today is the first without wetsuits.
As I was walking back up through the plantation I watched a barn owl quartering the open areas, they seem to be a common sight this year.
On the way home I called into a local shop to buy myself a ‘litter picker gadget’ so tomorrow if I venture up the fell, I usually do, I can positively improve the environment. I will pack the litter into a plastic bag and then on the way home I can chuck it over a fence like this lot…
My birthday happens to coincide with the date Lockdown commenced last year. There seemed quite a fuss about this [not my birthday], whilst I have every sympathy with the thousands of families affected by Covid deaths and they should not be forgotten, I am not one for lighting candles or creating memorial days for an event we have not dealt with very satisfactorily. I would almost go so far as to say they are devious attempts by the government to distract our attention from the failings and flag wave for our vaccine successes. Dangerous tactics.
Back to today’s walk, which I have completed many times recently, to make an occasion of it I took a picnic with me to enjoy higher up. Last year I visited the limestone quarry opposite Arbour Farm occasionally for its wildlife so as I pass today I have a look in. There are a couple of roe deer scampering away and a hare following. It’s too soon for any significant flowers but there a few mallards on the water and pheasants taking cover. In the past this area has been used as a shoot and the birds fed in the season. All around are spent shotgun cartridges. I take particular note as I’ve just been reading a DEFRA report of the latest attempts to ban lead ammunition. Lead ammunition could be phased out under government plans to help protect wildlife and nature, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow announced today (23 March). There has been a wealth of evidence that lead is damaging to humans, wildlife and the environment and yet a large amount of lead ammunition is discharged every year. Apart from the yearly slaughter of birds there is research showing wild fowl ingest lead pellets, mistaken for food, causing considerable deaths from poisoning. The Government have been slow to do anything about it and a voluntary transition by the shooting industry has not worked. A recent review showed the majority of game birds sold to the public had been killed using lead shot. So all change then – well not quite – the Government is proposing a two-year review of the evidence and then public consideration. A typical fudge when the hunting and shooting brigade are involved. Why don’t we just get on and ban it now. [In Denmark, hunters have had to use alternatives since 1996, when lead shot was banned]
Moving on I made my way up onto the fell and found a sheltered spot for my simple Birthday picnic in a little quarry nearby. I have recently started climbing in here again after many years, there is a small wall suitable for bouldering away from the Covid crowds that are making themselves unwelcome at the usual bouldering spot, Craig Y Longridge. It is up here that I have been regularly seeing Barn Owls flying around at dusk. Today a kestrel was hovering not far from me and a pair of Buzzards were wheeling high in the sky. Nice place for a picnic in the sun.
I wander home down the switchback lane. I had various texts etc appear on my phone from absent friends and family and in my porch a box of beer and a single malt. Not such a bad birthday after all.
My last walk, at the weekend with Mike, was through the fields and lanes of Chipping Vale with a little nibble at the west end of Longridge Fell. All very repetitive, so much so I didn’t take a single photo but the conversation must have been good. A couple of days have been spent festering, you know how it is. Today started slowly until I made the effort to get going and put some mileage under my belt. Starting from home the obvious way to increase my mileage was to continue along the road to the north of Longridge Fell before striking to the top. I noticed a few more roadside signs on the way.
Lee House Church.
Exquisite carved trough.
C17th Thornley Hall.
Entering Chaigley. Note the rake as a notch in the fell side woods.
I did consider going all the way to Higher Hodder Bridge but as I hadn’t set out till 1pm I thought it a little ambitious. [another time] I left the road at Rakefoot Farm and climbed the steep rake from there up onto the fell east of the summit. Once on the ridge I threaded my familiar way through the trees and into the open at the trig point. There was nobody else about. From up here one gets a bird’s eye view of the Thornley road below which I’d walked earlier.
It is all downhill from Jeffrey Hill to Longridge, a good way to end the afternoon.
The last couple of days I’ve been out bouldering in all that lovely sunshine. My arms and shoulders are now rebelling. I felt like a longer walk so planned this one on roads for today. It was grey and cold this morning, so I managed to faff around until after a light lunch, brisk walking was then the order of the day. The road through Thornley doesn’t always have a pavement so dodging from side to side on the corners is necessary. I passed Lord’s Lane and Birks Brow, two regular ways up onto the fell and continued on past Thornley Hall to climb the steep lane up Jeffrey Hill, this part of Longridge Fell. [see inserted map and elevation graph]
Even today there were plenty of cars in the car park by Cardwell House, but they would not have any views as the Bowland Hills were in cloud.
Cutting through Cowley Brook plantation, my latest discovery, avoided a little of the road to the Newdrop. I was then on the switchback road heading down to Longridge. It wasn’t a day for taking pictures or for meeting people so I was soon back home but glad of the exercise.
In a post last week I mentioned I’d wandered into Cowley Brook plantation coming off Longridge Fell. I didn’t mention that I had met a friend walking her dog there. She comes regularly to exercise the dog in an enclosed space with no sheep. Apparently others do the same, hence the reason I’d often seen cars parked here. Today I came back, on her recommendation, to explore the area in more detail, that’s the sort of thing I do in lockdown. The land owned by United Utilities has recently had trees cut down and new ones planted. They have opened it up for recreation without any path improvements, just some simple environmental advice.
I choose a newly trodden path through the mature trees alongside the little brook, it took me down the hill and into a more open area. Most of the newly planted are deciduous but firs are cropping up from seeds in the ground, It was good to see a kestrel hovering overhead. Keeping going alongside the water until a gate into a small water catchment area which led to the Old Clitheroe Road. The stream disappears under the road here. I have passed this way many times wondering about access up the stream, deer are a common sight in this valley. Signs suggested they didn’t want people in the works’ area, maybe I had gone too far.
Pleased with myself for finding this link up I retraced my steps back into the new plantation heading for the top edge where I entered the mature dark forest and made my own path back up the fell. At one point I jumped out of my skin as a hound, Baskerville size, came hurtling through the trees with no sign of an owner. There had been more cars parked when I arrived, so I presume it was from one of those – never to be seen again.
I progressed up the hill towards a fenced off quarry in the felled area. I profess to having prior knowledge here. Years ago when this hole in the ground was surrounded by trees I would climb the stone wall into these woods and disappear into the hidden quarry for some esoteric bouldering on its dark damp walls. The other day I came across some photos and a guide I had written – it slowly reverted to nature but gave me entertainment and exercise for a couple of years before I moved on elsewhere. Simple joys that have been derived from the outdoors throughout my life. And here I am again peering into its depths.
Picking my way through the new plantation I head back to my car just as my friend appears exercising her dog. She must come most days. We reminisce about past times and friends. Years ago I sold my house to her parents; I hadn’t found another one at the time, so I stayed on in a flat above the garage, the arrangement suited both parties, rumours of ‘ménage à trois’ circulated in the village. The lady I’m talking to today would have been 4 or 5yrs at the time but remembers it well. She is now a talented artist and does a lot of good work with schools, community groups and underprivileged youths. I’ll give her a plug with a photo of her van.
You just had to be out these last three days, perfect dry and sunny conditions. I managed three walks and enjoyed blue skies each day on the lanes around Longridge. Below is a snapshot of each day.
For the trip around Bleasdale I met up with Mike and despite the forecast of below zero temperatures there was no wind so it felt almost like a spring day. We extended the walk from Bleasdale Tower to Delph Lane as we were enjoying the conditions so much. I’m glad we did as it gave a sighting of a barn owl flying low in front of us. The coast looked very near in the clear conditions.
The next day I had just intended to follow the road loop up onto Longridge Fell, but I couldn’t resist the continuation up to the trig point and into the forest, the usually boggy terrain was frozen solid. The Bowland Hills are virtually clear of snow whereas Pendle looks plastered. On the return I wandered into plantations at Cowley Brook, I had seen cars parked here previously, and I found new leisure tracks opened up by the water board, I will have to visit again for a full exploration.
Today I drove a short distance out of town and walked the quiet lanes up to Beacon Fell, there were a few people about near the summit but I virtually had the place to myself. All was still and peaceful. I wonder if we will get any more snow this winter?
I hadn’t intended to visit the summit trig point, I was in trainers for a gentle stroll around forestry tracks so once I’d left those tracks I ended up with wet feet. I expected more people on top judging from the cars parked up alongside Longridge Fell but found myself alone looking at the cold view across to the Bowland Hills. We have been lucky and avoided the snows in the last few days, although Pendle had a covering.
I had walked along the road from the Crowshaw parking to Kemple End and then up the zigzags of the forest trail. This is the first time I’ve been up here this year and I’d forgotten about the parking problems of lockdown. Mostly I passed dog walkers but also larger groups of ‘youths’ whom I doubt were from the same household or even this locality, they seem oblivious to the lockdown recommendations. Maybe rules would be more appropriate, but I doubt it would make any difference to these people.
A new section of forest was being felled alongside a path I often take.
On a more positive note I had an extended chat with a couple and two children from Grimsargh, he was picking up litter and setting a good example to his young family and any walkers who passed. The stretch up from the parking is the worst for cans and wrappers, he draws the line at poo bags. Why don’t I come equipped to do the same on my local walks – food for thought? One shouldn’t always leave it to that other person.
The litter picker extraordinaire.
It was sub-zero temperature as I wound my way back to the car. I had driven 3.5 miles to reach my 5.5 miles walk, that is a bit dubious in my book but at least I had climbed a fell, if only a modest one at 350 m.
Sorry but I couldn’t resist another lone glove photo…