Following my post about a week ago I have kept visiting the Upper Dilworth Reservoir in Longridge to check on the progress of our Great Crested Grebes and their two chicks. I am glad to report that the chicks are doing well and swimming independently of their mother, no longer hiding on her back. I was slightly concerned that there was no sign of the male today.
Every day I see a pair of Mallards sitting on my lawn. They were attracted no doubt by my small pond and the bird food I spread on the ground every morning. The fact that they are together suggests that the duck hasn’t laid any eggs yet, I cannot see any sign of a nest.
I made a rough home for a hedgehog out of reeds, twigs and leaves earlier in the year hoping to attract them into my garden. Yesterday at dusk a hedgehog wandered across the lawn. It is probably around when I’m in bed. Let’s hope for a family. My photograph is not that good,I missed its snout.
The male pheasant who used to come for food has gone elsewhere. There is an abundance of blackbirds, robins, sparrows, starlings, great and blue tits all busy feeding their young scattered in hidden nests around the garden. A pair of magpies are no doubt doing damage to the smaller birds eggs.
Meanwhile, up on the Upper Dilworth Reservoir where I park to go bouldering in Craig Y Longridge there is quite a lot of activity. The Mallards had chicks a while back, not sure how many will survive.
But the highlight of this week was watching the pair of Great Crested Grebes on the water. I have been keeping an eye on them for several weeks, I missed their mating dance. I saw them building a nest in the reeds, but the foliage growth had camouflaged it, so I didn’t know if she had laid any eggs. I can see now that she has two chicks and is carrying them on her back whilst the male goes off diving for fish. They are quite a way out on the water, so my camera struggled to cope. The two young are virtually invisible on her back from this distance, just a flash of white feathers, but when the male returns their heads pop up, and sometimes they take to the water. He feeds her small fish, and I’m sure he was also giving titbits to the young. What a privilege to be able to watch their family life.
While I’m bouldering in Craig Y I often hear a Wren’s alarm call, and today I saw her fly out from low down in the rock face. On investigating there was the domed mossy nest in a crack. I kept well away for the rest of my session.
To mark the Easter visit of my family from Manchester a Chinese noodle lunch was enjoyed; and then whilst the physiotherapist was diagnosing my knee problem, resulting from that cycling incident last month, they exercised the dogs up on Longridge Fell. Back at home after coffee my three grandchildren were keen to do a little outside bouldering at the local unique Craig y Longridge. Where they live in Stretford is a bouldering gym, The Depot, which they regularly visit so a chance to get outside was eagerly anticipated. Despite the recent damp weather I was able to find dry rock to climb on and in my senior and injured role was happy to point them at the problems. Great to see them enjoying themselves.
By the time we got back the washing up had all been done. Perfect.
In the absence of any serious walking I often pop up in the car to the small reservoir at the top of Longridge. There are a pair of Great Crested Grebes usually in evidence, diving into the depths. They apparently have a splendid mating dance but so far have not displayed it to me.
But today who should wander into my garden but this splendid Garganey drake. A rare visitor indeed.
After the high winds, torrential rain and a morning of persistent snow the sun came out Saturday afternoon, enticing me (and many more Longridge residents) to walk around the block.
The air was still and almost warm, the hills were brilliant white and the birds were singing in the hedgerows. There were lambs in the fields. Simple pleasures.
I was glad I made the effort yesterday as today we are back to powerful winds and more rain. Don’t you just love British weather?
Here comes Storm Franklin.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by accessible fells giving good local walking, but at the moment I’m restricted to cycling, so I’m making the best of any opportunity for exercise whilst the sun shines. Today’s ride took me around the Bleasdale lanes without much climbing up the fells. However, I was surprised that when I plotted the route later, I’d climbed a thousand feet. It didn’t feel like that, there must have been lots of gradual ascents in low gear. Throughout the day I was treated to fine views of the Bleasdale Fells, Beacon Fell and on the run into home Longridge Fell.
Within four miles I was cycling through Inglewhite with its C17th market cross and then down across the River Brock into Claughton, a scattered parish by the motorway. Somewhere in the middle of it is Claughton Hall, but I only saw the western gate lodge. Up the lane was a medieval cross, at least its gritstone base.
I was soon on familiar roads skirting the Bleasdale Estate, with the fells all around me.
I stopped for a break and was joined by a party of horse riders from a nearby trecking centre. In the field to my left were dozens of dogs running about, some sort of canine day nursery. The staff didn’t seem very friendly when I stopped to look, perhaps they are wary of dog thefts at present.
Next it was mainly downhill on convoluted lanes with Longridge Fell ahead. I live at the base of the fell, so no further climbing was needed.
Another sunny-day journey with the over-the-hill cyclist.
As I swooped down into Ribchester, at the back of my mind was the thought that later in the day I would have to regain all the height, plus more. The morning was perfect with blue skies and sunshine, and more importantly to me in my new cycling guise – no wind. A pause to look at the River Ribble at Ribchester Bridge and then along the south side of the valley. The Marles Wood car park looked busy with families setting off for a riverside walk. I enjoyed the quiet lanes that eventually wound into Whalley on the banks of the Calder. I’ve always been intrigued by the row of cottages as you enter the village, today whilst I was taking photographs a couple of residents emerged and told me that they had been built as workers accommodation by a nearby hall. They had no explanation as to why there were two levels of access.
My favourite café in the village was closed, so I just carried on towards Mitton with its three inns, a hall and a medieval church which I’ve mentioned before. A fisherman was casting in the Ribble with proud Pendle in the background.
Talking of fishing, the last time I passed this way the Three Fishes was closed but in recent months it has had a makeover and reopened under Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth. He is hoping to make it the best pub restaurant in the area, judging from the prices, I won’t be visiting soon.
The road ahead gave a rather disheartening view of Longridge Fell, my next objective. But first I crossed Lower Hodder Bridge with Cromwell’s Bridge adjacent, you can’t pass it without another photograph. This was the lowest point of the ride and I now had to climb 600 ft back up onto the fell, steady was the word. Once up there, I had a switchback ride all the way back into Longridge and a hot bath to ease my aches.
A couple of extras –
Whilst I was climbing up the fell earlier, I had passed the well-known Pinfold Cross. This is what I wrote last time – The Pinfold Cross is a memorial to a former servant at Stonyhurst College and fiddler, James Wells. It was erected in 1834 at Stockbridge after he died in a quarry accident. On the front is inscribed the legend, ‘WATCH, FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY NOR HOUR.’ Above this is written, ‘OFT EVENINGS GLAD MAKE MORNINGS SAD’. On the left is ‘PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF JAMES WELLS’ and on the right, ‘DIED FEB. 12TH, 1834′.
This is one of a series of crosses associated with Stonyhurst College whose grounds I have mainly skirted today. I did pass one of their gates and had time to ponder the school’s sign. I suppose times have changed and most primary schools now have a pre-school section. It is said that it helps children integrate better and prepare them for the learning experience to come. Oh! And it also provides a baby sitting service for busy parents out at work. What stuck me most was the 3-year-old reference. I couldn’t get it out of my mind and I imagined all these little children being abandoned at the school each day, God forbid if they were boarders. I’m sure it is not as bad as that and the toddlers have a great time.
Lily Allen, whom you may not be acquainted with, wrote a song expressing her own child’s anxiety left at home whilst Mum sang around the world. We have to be careful how we nourish our young offspring. Needless to say, I was humming the tune for the rest of the ride. Here is a version of this touching song where she is accompanied by Jules Holland – I’m only three.
As I pedalled out of Longridge today I had no intention of going up Beacon Fell, but that is where I ended up, don’t ask me why.
Next week is the climate crisis meeting in Glasgow, so cycling and recycling could well be on the agenda. My carbon footprint today should be low providing I don’t switch on the central heating or eat any meat. Life is becoming complicated, with all manner of ways of going green. If we all recycled and if we all cycled instead of using our cars … but that is not going to happen. Pollution in our cities decreased drastically during the first lockdown, when nobody was going anywhere. Apparently the roads are busier than ever now. So what does our chancellor come up with in his budget to reduce global warming? A planned increase in fuel duty is cancelled because of fuel shortages and high prices. He has also cut the flat-rate tax on domestic flights to zero to encourage more flights. Those two decisions don’t look good for our green credentials in the international climate debate we are hosting next week. A case of business over environment. We will never reach our modest carbon reduction targets.
Anyhow, that is not why I’m on Beacon Fell. I’d been feeling rather guilty as I had opted out of a planned ride around the Guild Wheel yesterday with Martin. https://phreerunner.blogspot.com/
I’d woken up to monsoon rains and a dismal forecast, so I contacted Martin in Manchester to wimp out of a ride in the pouring rain. He agreed and I think cancelled his plans with others. By 11 o’clock the rain had stopped and there was a brief interlude of a couple of hours before the torrents returned — we would have been OK. Elsewhere in the NW there were floods and they have my sympathies. I still felt guilty and disappointed that we’d missed our ride.
Today looked like a repeat, weather wise, and I idled the morning away, but by one o’clock it was still just dry and bright, so I roused myself for a short spin around the lanes. Somehow cycling is not as spontaneous as going for a walk or run, all the faff of different clothing and oiling the bike etc. It is too easy just not to bother, especially for some brief exercise. But I need the exercise as I feel I’m becoming unfit and flabby from my enforced inability to walk far, Plantar Fasciitis, which seems to bring on red wine drinking and snacking.
The road out to Chipping seemed to fly along, maybe I had the wind behind me. Soon I was on quieter, more relaxed lanes and just went where the bike pointed. Before I realised it was pointing up Beacon Fell. So I dropped into my grandad gear and puffed my way up. I have been a little concerned recently by getting out of breath on any marginal incline, so I looked upon this ascent as a bit of a test. I’m due at my doctor’s practise for a proper test in the near future. Needless to say, I made it and pulled into the visitor centre/café at the top. It is half-term, so there are a scattering of outdoor type families taking to the pathways. The café is open as a ‘takeaway’ so I buy a coffee and sit at one of the outside tables. The coffee is not as good as usual, I wonder if they have changed suppliers and gone for a cheaper brand, I don’t say anything.
It’s nearly all downhill back to home but I come across a few interesting diversions which may show up on my phone camera.
As well as the gloomy global climate predictions I’m also concerned about the steadily growing Covid infections, hospital admissions and deaths. A close friend had a close encounter with a Northern Casualty Department last week, third world is how he described it. I’m just glad I’m booked in for my booster vaccination tomorrow.
Get recycling and save the planet.
Get your booster and save yourself.
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.
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.
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.
Not a footpath in sight, not a stile climbed, not a fell summited, and you will be pleased to hear not a church visited. Oh! Well, maybe just one. My heel is playing up just when the weather is bucking up. Not to be defeated, I drag my bike out of the garage and do a few short rides around Longridge. So today I was ready for a longer ride. Out to Bashall Eaves, Cow Ark, Chipping, Whitechapel and back, about 29 miles (47 km) or so.
Cycling brings a different aspect to one’s locality. No flowers to identify, no birds to watch, no passing conversations. Just the tarmac ahead and that steep ascent looming. Today I concentrate on the inns that I pass, past and present. In the Ribble Valley and Bowland we have been lucky to have had an excellent selection of quality establishments. Rural inns have a long pedigree, their names tell us much of the local history. Unfortunately the country inn has suffered from economic pressures and several hostelries have bitten the dust. Covid has had a serious effect on the hospitality business.
On my corner is the Alston Arms, now The Alston which has had several reincarnations since its establishment in 1841. It has survived the COVID lockdowns and seems as busy as ever with locals, a large outside seating area has helped. Strange that I have not visited since over two years ago, when it was the favourite venue of my friend developing Alzheimer’s disease. She always ordered the same — fish, chips and mushy peas. And they were good!
The second one encountered on the road is the Derby Arms, recently reopened after a period under a fish franchise, The Seafood Pub Company, It looked open today for lunch, so all is well, hopefully. The area around here was part of the Derby Estate. The Stanley Family, Earls of Derby, established lands in Thornley here, hence the pub’s name.
Along the way through Chaigley I pass the former Craven Heifer Hotel. The Craven Heifer became a popular pub name, particularly in the Craven area, so I don’t know how one popped up in Bowland. This hotel was a regular eating place at the end of the last century, it closed Christmas Eve 2008. Since then, it has been a private residence.
On the way down to the Hodder I passed these gates which are normally locked. Today they were open, and I had a quick peep into their lands, with a lake and a large house in view. No idea who lives here. Chadswell Hall.
I stopped off at the Higher Hodder Bridge, the river was as low as I’ve seen for a while. Just up the road is the former Higher Hodder Hotel. This was another hotel with a long period of serving good food and ales. It became well known to the fishermen casting in the Hodder below. I noticed on an old photograph a petrol pump in its forecourt, those days are long gone. Its demise came in 2001 with a severe fire from the kitchen. Bought by a local businessman and converted into apartments. It still has problems with erosion from below where the Hodder flows, undermining the banks. One day it may all fall into the river.
At the next crossroads I knew of an ancient milestone but had never stopped to investigate, Today I had a good look at it. There was lettering on two sides with mileages. On the West face To Preston 10M. To Gisburn M8. On the North face
To Lancaster 16M. To Whalley M3. 1766. It turns out that this is Grade II listed.
The next pub is the Red Pump in Bashall Eaves. This had been closed for some time when it was resurrected by the present owners in 2014, who turned it into a ‘gastropub’ with accommodation including recently added Glamping Yurts and Shepherd Huts. I notice that it has restricted opening hours, so calling in for a pint is not always possible. The pub has a connection to a murder mystery that was never solved.
Some serious pedalling has to be done climbing the road towards Browsholme Hall who have got in on the café scene. No time to visit today. On through the strangely named hamlet of Cow Ark and soon I’m freewheeling down the road which follows the line of the Roman Road from Ribchester to Carlisle and back over the Hodder at Doeford Bridge.
The Gibbon Bridge Hotel is a little farther on and has a history only going back to 1982 when the family diversified from farming to catering. Over the years the hotel has grown and particularly in recent times with the focus on weddings. They still do a good lunch in the dining room, with magnificent views over the gardens and Chipping Vale.
Chipping at one time had three pubs in the village. The Talbot has been closed for years and is looking in a sorry state. Opposite, the Tillotson’s is now open again but has annoyingly random hours, they were missing trade today as lots of tourists were wandering around the quaint village.
The Sun has had a renaissance and is now thriving both as a locals’ drinking pub and a reliable eatery. It is reputedly the most haunted pub in Lancashire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA1MZp3WYdI I couldn’t resist a wander around the churchyard looking for Lizzie Dean’s gravestone.
I now head out to Whitechapel on narrow lanes under the shadow of Beacon Fell, When I first came to this area in the early seventies a curiosity was the Cross Keys Inn run by a farming family. It had irregular hours depending on work on the farm, a quirky bar, a good pool table. Late night sessions were common. At times, if the landlord was busy elsewhere, there was an honesty box for the drinks you had consumed. The inn was known, tongue in cheek, as The Dorchester! It closed over a decade ago but was bought by a local builder who has restored it along with accommodation units and has recently reopened it. Again, as the case with many of these rural pubs they are not open every day, particularly at the beginning of the week, but it is good to see it trading and I’ve promised myself a pint there soon.
Down the road is yet another Lancashire village, Inglewhite, centred on a village green and a cross. The pub here is called The Green Man and has a date stone of 1809. Green Men go back to pagan times and are a fairly common inn name — the sign here depicts a typical Green Man. This pub has been closed off and on for several years, reflecting the difficulties of successfully running a rural inn. Let’s hope it stays open for the foreseeable future. It was not open today!
Homeward-bound now with tiring legs, I pass the last rural pub — Ye Horns Inn. An 18th century listed building that closed four years ago. It had been run as a family business for decades, famous for its Goosnargh Roast Duck reared down the road, and its unique wooden panelled snug located behind the bar. New owners have developed the site with residential properties, but hope to reopen the pub soon. I await with bated breath. Another unique feature here is the men’s urinal across the road from the pub. Not sure how many drunken patrons were run down on this precarious crossing.
It is strange that my trip around all these rural inns didn’t involve any alcohol intake but as you saw several are closed for good, others concentrate on dining and others have limited opening. With a bit of organisation and forward planning, a right good pub cycle could be achieved around the eight trading pubs— but whether it would be legal or safe to ride a bike at the end of it would be debatable.
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.
Friday, May 14th 8 miles Longridge/Grimsargh. Continue reading
Wednesday, May 5th 11miles. Samlesbury.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday 5th April. 7 miles. Longridge.
I wrote about the ‘The Round Longridge Walk’ back in February…
Today I went out to try and improve the route by avoiding too many main roads and keeping outside the circle of ever-increasing hosing developments. I also had a new camera which I wanted to play with, it has far too many features for me to come to terms with quickly.
What a beautiful Easter Monday, blue skies, lots of sunshine and a cold wind. Perfect. Well not quite – they have taken out all the hedges on a new development. Our slate artist has summed it up nicely on a Hedge Sparrow triptych. [Richard Price – see transcript at end of post.]
I linked up with the route on Pinfold Lane where several parties were scanning the wetlands with binoculars.
I had a brief look, there is a digger in the background, and carried on my way down towards Bury’s Farm. A farmer was rolling his field – a picture from the past.
I found a better, more rural, route around Alston and on across the main road. I found my way through peoples drives and gardens back into fields before picking up the old rail Preston – Longridge line and onto home ground. The blackthorn and cherries were blossoming.
It has been a walk of contrasts – trying to balance the rural with the creeping urbanisation. It’s time for the hills.
You don’t see many hedges these days, and the hedges you do see they’re not that thorny, it’s a shame, and when I say a hedge I’m not talking about a row of twigs between two lines of rusty barbed wire, or more likely just a big prairie where there were whole cities of hedges not fifty years ago, a big desert more like, and I mean thick hedges, with trees nearby for a bit of shade and a field not a road not too far off so you can nip out for an insect or two when you or the youngsters feel like a snack, a whole hedgerow system, as it says in the book, and seven out of ten sparrows say the same, and that’s an underestimate, we want a place you can feel safe in again, we’re social animals, we want our social life back, and the sooner the better, because in a good hedge you can always talk things over, make decisions, have a laugh if you want to, sing, even with a voice like mine!
Tuesday, March 23rd. 9 miles. Longridge.
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.
I’ve struggled to put a post together this week, in fact I’ve struggled to do much at all. Are we all getting burnout? This afternoon I went on a wake-up walk around the village.
There is a new shop opened, ‘Bowland Organics’, the clue is in the name. It is getting good reviews for the freshness of its vegetables and other local produce. Most days the artisan bread is sold out within hours, as it should be. It is closed by the time I walk by, so you will have to wait for my opinion.
Just up the road, Berry Lane, I see that one of the slate poems has been smashed, not simply broken but obviously vandalised into many pieces. I’ve been commenting on and photographing these poems since they started appearing almost a year ago. See here, there and everywhere. All were chosen to give hope and enlightenment in our troubled times, and I’ve found inspiration from them in my local wanderings. I’m sad at the sight but then notice that against the tree another poem has appeared, this time by Emily Dickinson.
My last post had a heading photo of nearby Hope Lane so lets all hope for the better.
I have just returned from one of my around Longridge walks. One keeping to the hard surfaces. It is wild and windy, cool with more rain due shortly. I acknowledged and chatted to friends in passing, even their dogs are getting to know me. It is surprising how many have tested positive for the Covid virus and been ill, I’m glad I have kept myself semi isolated. and I’ve had one vaccination six weeks back now.
The not so Merry-Go-Round continues as we are urged to stay at home, I did the same yesterday and no doubt tomorrow I’ll repeat a similar walk.
But cases, hospital admissions and deaths are coming down, and schools are back. So what may we plan for in the coming weeks? I need to remind myself of the Government’s ‘roadmap’ for coming out of lockdown. As I think they apply to me –
From 29 March:
- People will be allowed to meet outside, either with one other household or within the “rule of six”, including in private gardens
- The stay at home rule will end, but the government will urge people to stay local as much as possible
Stage two (no earlier than 12 April):
- All shops allowed to open, along with hairdressers.
- Restaurants and pubs allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
- Members of the same household can take a holiday in the UK in self-contained accommodation
Stage three (no earlier than 17 May):
- People can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors
- Six people or two households can meet indoors
- Pubs and restaurants can seat customers indoors
- Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen
- International leisure travel may resume.
There is little guidance on social distancing, hand hygiene or face mask wearing. Perhaps the scientists will remind us of those in due course.
All the above depending on –
- The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan.
- Vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying or needing hospital treatment.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions.
- New coronavirus variants do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions.
Where does that leave me? Well from the end of March I can walk locally with up to six people which is an improvement. My son who lives local can come for a brew in the garden but I’m not sure if I can meet up with my family from Manchester, too distant. In April, I can get my hair cut and stay in self-catering accommodation, though a lot is already booked up. I assume travelling further afield is then permitted. Not until May could I stay in a hotel or B&B. I have no desire to rush abroad whilst European cases are high or variants about, Ryanair’s emails to me suggest otherwise.
I have a few short backpacking trips in quiet areas of the UK on the slow burner so they are a possibility either with B&B’s or taking a tent to be independent. I’d better retrieve one of my tents from the back of the cupboard to check it for worthiness. Even better I should be able to meet up with friends I’ve not seen for a year for some exercise and a pint. I have a feeling that any outing is going to feel rather strange, I will have to get into a different mindset – a lot has changed in a year. I think any alpine trip can wait till next year but what about the Canaries next winter? I did spot this on the fell last week…
Oh well, don’t hold your breath I will be around Longridge again tomorrow. Treat yourself to a little Pete Green…