When I started writing this blog nearly 10 years ago I called myself ‘bowlandclimber’. My first post incidentally was information on the climbing at Kemple End Quarry on Longridge Fell. I was out climbing most days, either in the mountains of Wales or the Lake District, the edges of the Peak District or Yorkshire, the Lancashire quarries or the bouldering in Bowland. What great friendships shared. As somebody said – “we had it all”
Time moves on, life evolves I’ve lost a great many friends in those years, that is the worst thing. My climbing unfortunately has taken a back seat for all sorts of reasons – OK I’m getting old and the joints aren’t what they used to be. But I’m not giving up that easily.
Today I find myself hanging from an abseil rope doing a spot of ‘cleaning’ in Kemple End. I love it up here. Those views over the Ribble Valley, the deer hiding in the quarry floor, the fresh green growth of bracken, the barn owl roosting across the other side, the thrill if anybody else is climbing here, the first chalked up handhold and the familiar movement across the rough rock, brushing off any loose dust.
Someone has reported, on a climbing forum, concerns about a hanging flake on one of the climbs – Birdy Brow for those familiar. I’ve soloed up and down this route, perhaps recklessly, for many years enjoying the positive layback moves on the flake’s edge. It has never moved.
I went back up there a few days ago and all seemed well but when you examined the flake carefully it was only balanced there by a bit of soil. There was no direct attachment to the quarry face. I felt a pang of conscience – what if someone was injured or worse, killed on this route. I was responsible for finding the route and publishing it to the climbing network. There it was in print in the Lancashire guide book, it even has a star.
Here’s a great photo of Phil Gillespie soloing it – (?copyright UK Climbing)
I’m back today intending to remove the flake which must weigh a ton. Hence, the abseil rope. I’ve brought a crow bar, but it only moves the flake a little, Maybe it is more secure than I thought, but once started I may have made the situation worse. Huffing and puffing I realise I don’t have the strength to prise it from its resting place. My car is only 50 m away and in the boot is the jack – never used in earnest before. Is this a job for the AA?
I return and carefully place the carjack between rock and flake, a few turns of the screw and I can see results. Slowly the gap is widening, and I have time to ensure my safety and recover the jack intact as all that rock crashes to the ground. With a touch of sadness I realise the flake is no more. But there is one hell of a mess of broken rock on the quarry floor and some revision due to the climbs here.
All looks well on Birdy Brow.
Well maybe not.
That’s a lot of rock to fall down on you.
Jack in place. Does this photo make you feel dizzy?
A new scar to climb.
As I said my first post ever was about climbing at Kemple End, so it was fitting that this, my 1000th post, was on the same locality. Unfortunately I managed to delete a past post into the ether yesterday, so technically this post no 999, but I’m not having that.
This is my 1000th post – maybe it is time to stop?
After my pleasant interlude in the Primrose Nature Reserve I drove across town to visit the Cross Hill Nature Reserve, managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust.
“Colonised by orchids and teaming with butterflies, Cross Hill Quarry is a shining example of how nature reclaims the relics of our industrial past.”
I found parking difficult on the road used by all the lorries visiting the cement works but eventually found a quiet spot on the Pimlico Road. The area is dominated by the works, limestone Cross Hill Quarry was apparently abandoned in the early 1900s. I entered by the path next to the railway to walk round in a clockwise direction. What struck me most was the notice board for the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail. in This was established in 1993 to make art accessible to all whilst enjoying the walks in the park. Artists liaised with the local community to produce works relating to the specific environment. I had previously passed a few of them on the riverside walk, part of The Ribble Way through Brungerley Park. There have been many newer installations, so why not follow the whole trail today? Download your own leaflet here.
The first sculpture is one of several by Halima Cassell, a flower head of Great Burnet, 2009. Made up of many ceramic bricks it displays strong patterns reflecting her Islamic heritage which you will recognise in her other works.
To start with the path was very close to the industry on the left, but one soon lost oneself in the greenery. I diverted to see the Tawny Owl Seat, 2018, created out of sandstone by the prosaic Ribble ValleyStonemasonry. I wasn’t impressed, but it did have a good view of the Ribble and distant misty Bowland.
There was a good showing of Cowslips in the meadowland here, but I realised I was probably a month too soon for the orchids and butterflies, although I did spot a solitary male Orange Tip.
Back on the peripheral path were a stunning pair of Sika Deer, 2007, by Clare Bigger. These life-sized minimalistic animals sprang out of the woodland in a flury of movement.
A little farther and there was another of Halima Cassell‘s geometric ceramics – Fir Cone. Very grand and distinctive.
In contrast, was the diminutive stainless steel Butterflies, 2007, the first of three waymarks by David Appleyard. He developed these in collaboration with local schools. The symbolic nature of the cutouts demand a much closer attention.
A little farther is another of his installations – Ivy, 2007.
The higher path led into the more formalised Brungerley Park. A workman was busy blowing the leaves off the paths, work I always think of as lazy and ultimately unproductive when the next winds blow. Here was the strangest of sculptures in the park. The Cook House, 2000, Helen Calaghan. Apparently depicting a pan of boiling tripe, is there a history of this in the quarry? She has incorporated fossils, as found locally, into the goo. Very strange.
Back to the more familiar at the gate – Common Comfrey, Halima Cassell, 2009.
I left the park through the ornate gates with a Latin inscription beyond me…
…only to re-enter the park lower down near Brungerley Bridge.
Again a comforting installation from Halima Cassell welcomed me back – Alder Cone, 2009.
This path now was closer to the river. The garden blower was still at work but had time to explain to me how at one time there was a landing stage for pleasure boats here and long before the bridge was built hipping stones across the shallows, with links to Henry VI’s capture in the C15th.
Disappointedly I couldn’t make much of Tom Dagnall‘s Two Heads in an elm tree from 1993. I know the artist but couldn’t see one head never mind two. I think they must be on the other side or have rotted away.
Down some steps to the riverside I found Fish Mobile, 2007, by Julie Ann Seaman. Depending on where you stand the fish either swim in the Ribble or leap above the water. Mine did neither.
Onwards I retraced my steps on the outbound route and then dropped to the river again where I found another of David Appleyard‘s steel waymarks, Brook, 2007. Symbolic of flowing water.
Down here was also As the Crow Flies a compass feature in wood by David Halford from 1994. Wooden sculptures don’t seem to last long in the damp NW. The next ceramic mosaic was inspired by Victorian shop doorways in Clitheroe, Wildlife, from Louise Worrell, 2000. It looked more Roman than Lancastrian.
Another Halima Cassell brick creation Lords and Ladies, 2009. Nearby were the real flowers.
Alongside the riverside track were three Mosaic Waymarkers created by Paul Smith in collaboration with Clitheroe primary schools in 2005. They depicted wildlife found in the area with glass and ceramic mosaics.
My side trip into the quarry was not a great success, I forgot to look for Thomas Dagnall’s Footprints as I examined the slanting strata of the limestone. I was too soon for most flowers, though the delph was alive with birdsong.
Where the Ribble Way leaves the park to follow the river there was a striking sculpture of an Otter in white limestone, Fiona Bowley, 2007. I don’t know why, but it reminded me of the Little Mermaid on the waterfront in wonderful Copenhagen. I have yet to see an otter on the Ribble.
Down by the river was the jolly The RibbleKing an imaginative piece created by Matthew Roby, 2007, from recycled materials. At least I often see Kingfishers on the Ribble.
Fittingly, as her geometric representative floral statues composed of multiple ceramic bricks have been a highlight of the trail, my last as I left the reserve was Halima Cassell’s Thistle. Again this had been installed in the relative recent 2009 which explains why I had not seen them on my infrequent visits.
An eclectic collection of statues all having some relevance to the Ribble Valley environment. I like the way schools have been involved in some installations but from a purely visual impact the more professional statues had the most impact on my limited appreciative sensibilities. My favourite has to be the Sika Deer.
I appreciated the bench in the park and the sentiment.
Back at the car and looking at the map there was another disused quarry on the other side of the road with a green public right of way around it. I couldn’t resist it, but unfortunately the quarry has been in filled and the path is fenced in most of the way, so there was little to see. At least I tried.
Salthill Geological trail will have to wait for another day, perhaps in early June when those rare orchids may appear.
Clitheroe is just down the road from my home and at the back of my mind was an excellent post from Shazza regarding a nature reserve in town. Three in particular I wanted to visit; Primrose, Crosshill Quarry and Salthill.
I got away at lunchtime and eventually found somewhere to park adjacent to the newish Primrose Nature Reserve. I remember the excellent Primrose Nursery which used to trade across the road – now an Aldi. There is a bridge above the lodge dam and below is the new fish ladder allowing fish and eel access to Mearley Brook. The mill buildings are being converted to apartment living spaces. Work has been carried out to improve the water environment and access to it. Community And Wildlife | Primrose Nature Reserve | Clitheroe (primrosecommunitynaturetrust.org)
The lodge was created to supply Primrose Mill, opened for cotton spinning in 1787, the arrival of the Industrial Revolution in Clitheroe Subsequently the mill was used for calico printing and later became a paper mill. The paper mill at Primrose had a relatively short life until1890, but the lodge continued to feed a Lower Mill which ultimately became a bleaching and dying works and continued to operate until 1963. The lodge became silted up.
I stood at the bridge for some time intrigued whether the heron was real or not, it didn’t move an inch.
I found a way into the reserve and down to a viewing platform – a few ducks only. The path through the reserve strip was followed with Blackbirds and Chiffchaff noisy in the canopy somewhere. I stopped at the ‘Manet’ bridge to view some water sluices when along came along a black Labrador which I thought I recognised from Shazza’s posts – Hugo. Of course, he was with Shazza herself, so I bravely introduced myself. What an amazing meeting of bloggers. She was as charming as her posts, and it was a joy to meet her.
I let her carry on with Hugo’s exercise as I left the reserve on to the main Whalley Road. The trustees and volunteers have created a vital green space in the centre of Clitheroe which will only improve as it matures.
Ahead of me was St. James Church looking almost as an L S Lowry painting in its starkness.
I walked back along the road and on crossing the lodge bridge once more I saw that the heron had changed its stance proving its existence.
I next went to explore Crosshill Quarry Reserve but became distracted by the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail, so I think I will leave that to another post.
Another walk below 5 miles from Mark Sutcliffe’s excellent Lancashire guide, this will be the last of his easy walks to test out my knee. The train took some of the strain today. I parked up outside Whalley rail station next to the impressive many arched brick viaduct. This is the longest railway viaduct in the county. It has 48 arches and two have been built to reflect the Abbey in architecture. It took seven million bricks, and they were all made on site of local clay. I hope it will show up later on my photos from on high. The platform slowly filled with shoppers and football fans heading to Blackburn. Being a Bank Holiday I was anxious that the trains would be running but the 11.30 arrived almost on time. It trundled slowly across the viaduct with the River Calder way below. Five minutes later I was the only one alighting at Langho station. The village had a small but colourful floral display.
My walk nearly came to an abrupt end on the narrow clough leading on from Whinney Lane. The enclosed path ran alongside a stream and a storm damaged tree blocked the route. I was glad no one was able to see me crawling through the fallen branches. I only just made it and then realised a family above were watching my antics with interest. Somewhat disillusioned the father made an effort to get through but then decided it was too difficult for his wife and children, and they retreated – I pushed on.
Jungle warfare – there’s a man crawling in there somewhere
Lanes then led up to York, a cluster of houses and an inn, which seems to have had a renaissance as a gastropub. Open ground with gritstone outcrops formed a ridge which would have been good to follow, but my way took me over and down to the dam of Dean Clough Reservoir and across to farm lanes weaving through these hidden valleys. Ahead was always the distant Pendle Hill but nearer at hand was a pointed peak which I later identified as Bowley Hill, there was no obvious way up it and as my knee was hurting I didn’t feel like adventuring.
The ongoing lane was closed due to works on the bridge over Dean Brook, more contortions were needed to outflank the blocked way. Fittingly I next passed Sunny Bank Farm as sheep and lambs were relaxing in the warm sunshine. Just emerge yourself into Lancashire’s finest. A bit of naughty signage, Private No right of Way, had me doubting the onward path but there was an obvious track up to a stile and out onto more open moor. I could have reached this point easily, and possibly more scenically, from the reservoir dam. I took the less obvious way through the woods and emerged onto Moor Lane. I thought I had been here before on either Wainwright’s Way or my Lancashire Monastic Way. Pendle was again prominent ahead as was the transmitter on Whalley Nab. Over to the left was Kemple End on Longridge Fell and the hazy Bowland Hills behind.
The lucky young occupants of the cottage above Nab Side Farm were chatty despite being engrossed in their extensive hillside garden. A little farther round the hillside I took a break overlooking Whalley and its viaduct.
An enclosed and steep monk’s trod challenged my knee ligaments on the way down to the elegant bridge over the Calder.
I passed the old Abbey corn mill, now an apartment block and I noticed for the first time the water wheel preserved within. Somehow I missed the Abbey’s gateways and went through the streets, past the ancient parish church, back to the Station to complete my afternoon’s stroll.
A walk I must have done dozens of times. I was looking for a short flattish walk to test out my knee. Walk 22 in the Cicerone guidebook fitted the bill, and I was anticipating the woods full of bluebells. It turned out to be a day of bright sunshine but with a violent wind out of the east.
The Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green was busy with the sunny weekend weather. I didn’t use their car park but found a spot in the village near the war memorial. Lambing Clough Lane took me down past the C17th Trough House (they have a fetish for weighing scales) to the new Dinckley bridge over the River Ribble. The river was running low with the exposed pebbly beaches accessible.
This stretch seemed to be popular with dog walkers today – but doesn’t everyone own a dog or two now. Entering Marles Wood the path threads between the trees often awkwardly over the exposed roots. The bluebells were only just starting, but there was a good display of Wood Anemones and the Lesser Celandines were hanging on. The new beech leaves were the greenest of greens.
One of the problems with this circuit is the kilometre of road walking from Salesbury Hall to Ribchester bridge. The road however was quiet and my attention was directed to the wayside plants. The blooms of the Blackthorn are fading to be replaced by the emerging Hawthorn. Yellow Dandelions and white Dead Nettles covered the verges. Soon I was crossing the elegant bridge which has seen some recent damage from vehicles.
Onwards past the farm and into the riverside woods where flood debris is always piled up, but thankfully someone has been collecting the plastics. Unfortunately the right of way leaves the river, what a shame – if only access could have been obtained all the way back to Dinckley Bridge. I have in the past persisted in trespassing alongside the river but remember it being difficult. On this day in 1932, hundreds of folk marched on the famous Kinder Scout protest, and we are approaching a time when we may need to resist the Tory’s crackdown on our access to land.
I’ve always found navigating the fields here a bit of a challenge and Mark’s directions didn’t really help. The bluebells in the woods at Starling Brook compensated for my previous disappointment. Wild garlic was also showing well, I must pick some for a delicious meal with poached egg.
There are good views of Pendle and the Ribble Valley from these hills. With luck, I arrived at the bridge over Dean Brook, the stream I followed to find Raven Lumb Falls last April.
A steep climb led back to Lambing Clough Lane and into Hurst Green.
As an aside on the way home I spotted another of those evocative slate poems next to St. John’s Church. Poignant thoughts.
Anyone wanting to follow this walk could shorten it by parking at Marles Wood and avoid the loop into Hurst Green.
Today is murky and damp, this morning I’m still in bed reading when the window cleaner appears on his ladder. He comes the first week of each month, and I have to pinch myself that we are into February already. I chat to him, standing in my dressing gown as he moves around the house. He reminds me that one or two of my windows probably need replacing, another job to put on the slow burner of my ‘things to do’.
I tend to go into slow motion in the winter months, particularly at the start of the New Year. Somewhere I have a SAD light, but significantly have not been bothered to use it. Past winters have been shortened by regular trips to sunnier climes, but that is a thing of the past for me in the present pandemic. Even my local walking is curtailed by the persistent plantar fasciitis. I have a list of friends to catchup with, many of them lying low. Parliamentary matters are not helping. Even my annual Big Garden Birdwatch didn’t go to plan. Oh well, it was good that yesterday I had phoned JD and arranged a walk with him to get out of the house and catch up with his news. The last time we were out together was in July last year! There have been several times when his close family have been infected or isolating, touch wood I have steered clear of any forms of Covid.
A simple walk was planned around the Alston area, Preston not Cumbria. The little blue car was parked up on Alston Lane by 11am, it had been raining until then. Off we went along familiar lanes, through farms and down soggy fields, until we were walking alongside the River Ribble. No navigational decisions were needed, so we chatted away the rest of the morning, we share a broad church. A few mallards were spotted on the river, but otherwise any countryside life was keeping a low profile.
Opposite Balderstone Hall is an ancient ford crossing of the river, which JD has completed several times in summer conditions. Yesterday, he was upset that gates leading to the river bank on our side were obstructed and locked. The reason maybe the new development being undertaken here. A large “architecturally designed” property is slowly being completed, no doubt at significant cost. We wondered about the environmental impact of such a design on this rural riverside. Maybe it has already won an award. From there we made our way slowly back up the valley escarpment via rather convoluted field paths, I was trying to avoid the hard roads. In parts, we used the out of favour Ribble Way path and ended up on the wrong side of barbed wire several times. We almost had a Starling murmuration from these trees……but not quite.
JD always makes a good cup of coffee, so I was glad to drive back to his house for the rest of the afternoon. His wife, recovering from a hip operation, probably had walked farther than us on her daily exercise routine around the village.
I had not taken many photographs, due to the dull weather and too much conversation, so for a better impression of the scenery by all means look at a previous walk.
However, a couple of pictures, harbingers of Spring, probably will do more for me than that missing SAD light. Having posted this, it’s time for me to get out of the dressing gown and do something useful this afternoon. I believe in yesterday.
I had been told by Clare, of Slate Poems fame, of another decorated Xmas Tree on the fell. I was up here to find it. Parking was difficult on this fine Sunday afternoon, remember the chaotic parking situation in our earlier lockdowns. The good weather had brought lots of families out at the start of the Christmas Holidays.
Would you believe it? As I walked through the gate onto the fell, I bumped into Clare herself exercising her beautiful Collie.
I normally take the more northerly track overlooking Chipping Vale, I call it the ‘panoramic balcony track’, but there is also a track following markers going straight up the fell leading to boggy terrain, best avoided. Incidently this track goes through the site of some Bronze Age hut circles and burial grounds, I have tried unsuccessfully to locate these on the ground in the past.
This was the way to the decorated tree and the way I followed today. The stone cairn has had an addition of balanced stones, often seen on rocky beaches, I suspect they won’t survive a winter storm. Not far past the cairn is the tree. It was decorated with more environmentally friendly items; fir cones, wooden ornaments and nut strings for the birds. Satisfied with my ‘find’ I continued on through those forementioned bogs to regain the regular track, which does have its own boggy moments.
The other Xmas Tree with its tinsel and Angel topping was passed, and I reached the Trig point. There were good views, but nothing compared to yesterday’s cloud inversion. Circling through the forest, I was surprised at the number of trees that must have come down in our recent storms.
Once looking across the Ribble Valley, Pendle and Samlesbury there was a repeat of the cloud inversion * in a southerly direction.
* Cloud inversions take place when the temperature is warmer higher up – such as on a hill or mountain – than it is down at the bottom of a valley
The colder air at the lower level traps mist and fog creating the impression of mountain summits floating above the clouds.
Storm Arwen had passed through, but there was frost on the ground as I set off for a ride around Preston’s Guild Wheel this sunny morning. I wasn’t expecting to stop very often, but I did capture a few pictures.
In Red Scar Woods above Brockholes Nature Reserve, there was still plenty of Autumn colour.
The River Ribble was lower than I had seen it recently, with plenty of muddy banks on show.
The bridge taking the new Western Distributor road over the Ribble Link Canal is progressing fast.
At last, the Whistlestop Café, next to the canal on the University’s sports grounds, was open again, the first time for months when I’ve been passing. So I had to give them some custom and enjoy a quick morning coffee. That was about it really, I was home for an early lunch just as it started snowing.
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.
Dropping into Ribchester.
The Ribble, at Ribchester Bridge.
Old St. Leonards Church, Langho.
River Calder and that viaduct.
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.
Medieval church and Mitton Great Hall.
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.
Kemple End, Longridge Fell.
Longridge beyond the reservoir.
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.
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.
Over the years I have posted several reports of cycling The Preston Guild Wheel. The last one was Dec. 2020. Now that I’m back in (enforced) cycling mode it was time for a revisit.
As usual, I park at the Red Scar Industrial Estate and unload my bike thus avoiding the increasingly busy road through Grimsargh. Going anticlockwise, I seem to pass most cyclists coming the other way, all with a cheery hello. There is a new stretch of tarmacked cycleway leading to Durton Lane in amongst new developments, avoiding the traffic on Haighton Lane. From now on it is one new housing development after another, some have been completed since my last visit with others half finished with brave new owners living amongst the mess. Frighteningly, any other available space, green or not, is fenced off ready for the bulldozers. It is all very depressing.
I enter the mature estates of Cottam where the cycleway weaves between houses. As usual, I’m not paying attention and come up against a gate I don’t remember, of course I was lost and had to backtrack to pick up the route. Along here I almost had my first ‘road kill. — a squirrel ran as close to my front wheel as possible without being squashed.
The wrong gate.
On through the University playing fields and out along the Ribble Link Canal. Here are more diversions where the M55 link road is being constructed, it doesn’t seem to have progressed much since my last visit.
I notice men with big camera lenses alongside the dock railway and with a little luck as I cycle the Ribble Embankment along comes a steam train for some extra excitement.
Preston’s Parks whizz by and I’m soon leaving the Ribble into Brockholes Nature Reserve, I didn’t stop to visit the ‘getting to know snakes’ encounter advertised for this afternoon. I’m always glad to get out of the saddle for a while for the push up the steep hill of Red Scar back to the crematorium and my car. But today on a whim I went round again, another 21 miles, albeit more slowly, there are more hills than you realise. I have a secret plan and I need to see if I’m getting cycling fit, the answer is not quite yet.
In my head were the lyrics “round and round and up and down I go again” which I couldn’t place. Once home Google soon unearthed Let’s Twist Again, a big hit for Chubby Checker in 1960.
This is not to be confused with Twist and Shout which became a Beatles hit. They performed it at The Royal Variety Performance in 1963 when famously John Lennon said “For the people in the cheapest seats clap your hands and the rest of you just rattle your jewellery” much to the amusement of the Queen Mum. But I digress.
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 their 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.
JD phoned to suggest a walk by the rivers to try and spot otters which have been present recently. Suffice to say we didn’t see one but had an enjoyable walk nonetheless The stretch of waters we walked by I’ve described so many times in these pages, so I do not intend to repeat it here. We started on the Hodder and walked to its junction with The Ribble and then carried on to Hurst Green, basically part of the Tolkien trail. Spring flowers were more varied with new species appearing, the bluebells continued to put on a good show and of course the wild garlic was at its best in the damp shady places. Many of you will know the route on seeing this tree, the Winkley Oak.
Midweek is becoming much quieter as many people have returned to work, we met only a handful of dog walkers. A favourite spot is where the Hodder and Ribble join, there is a bench inside a fisherman’s hut which provided a comfortable lunch spot looking out over the rivers. Farther downstream near Hacking Hall the sandy banks provide nesting spaces for Sand Martins which were flying low around us as we passed, lovely to see them back. A thunderstorm with heavy rain caught us on the last stretch to Hurst Green, the sky above Pendle having taken on mysterious dark hues. Pubs are still only able to serve outdoors and because of the rain there were no takers in the Shireburn or Bailey establishments when we passed.
This was the first time I’d been walking with JD for probably 6 months, thus the lack of Otters didn’t dampen the day, but the rain certainly did try to.
I’m just about to eat my supper; wild garlic encrusted fish, a poached egg and new potatoes. The wild garlic was picked on today’s walk from one of the numerous wooded dells I traversed, my rucksack will smell of garlic for days.
Two days ago I was in Balderstone and today I’m parked in Osbaldeston, a few houses in a row. Obviously ‘balderston’ is the common phrase. I’m off to explore another bit of countryside south of the Ribble bypassed by the busy A59.
The little lanes around here are fairly free of traffic mid-morning, but I suspect will be a different matter at school and work times. As I said Osbaldeston is hardly a village, a row of mixed cottages and affluent houses with large gates, you know the sort. I was soon in fields where one stile led to another making navigation simple. I’ve just realised that hedges and not walls mark the boundaries in this area. The elegant steeple of Balderstone church was always peeping over those hedges and up above Mellor Moor, but more of that later.
I spotted a deer running off up a field and when I passed this dell I heard crying – and there were two very young calves left in the grass. A quick photo and I left as soon as possible, what a start to the day.
The next group of houses, Studdlehurst, were hidden away at the end of a lane. Again large gates and horsey activities were evident. The man mowing the lawn of what was probably the original farmhouse was chatty, mainly about the weather, his massive garden and the state of the footpaths since lockdown.
The next house had distanced itself from the general population behind electric gates, but had provided excellent waymarks, gates and stiles on the public rights of way – what more can you ask? Mercyfield Wood was full of bluebells, I apologise if I took too many ‘bluebell pictures’ today.
Crossing fields towards the river a new fence was going up but the original stile will be reinstated, the workers told me. At last, I was down by the River Ribble which was flowing quickly after overnight rain. I was on the lookout for Otters but to no avail. All the usual birds were present with Sand Martins making a return. Across the way was Hothersall Hall and I had a different view of it than from my usual walks.
The RofW path cut across the land to Osbaldeston Hall however a concessionary path was signed by the river so I gratefully followed that. A large group of Swans were paddling about farther on below the Old Boathouse. At Osbaldeston Hall I was pleasantly surprised to find the footpaths well-marked and the landowners going to a lot of effort to make life easy for the walker. I had only seen this hall from the Ribchester side before so it was good to come close up. A pleasant spot for a snack in the sunshine which had been in short supply until now. The old ‘Boathouse’ on the other side gives a clue as to a former ferry as well as a ford marked on an old map.
One cannot but sympathise with the farmer if his sheep are being worried, I fear that with the vast increase in dog ownership there will be a corresponding increase in irresponsible ownership.
The next mile or so was a switchback in and out of woods and ravines. Again plenty of scope for bluebell pictures and for picking some wild garlic for supper.
Once I approached C17th Oxendale Hall I was being watched by security cameras, the footpath became enclosed circling the property and I could have continued into the woods without seeing the Hall. An unmarked public footpath, not meant to be used, in fact crosses their frontage for a close up view. Of course, I was spotted and asked, or rather shouted at, if I was lost? I wasn’t lost, and I didn’t have the time of day for further conversation so continued on my way.
The next hall, Showley, another Grade II listed C17th but much altered, was something of a difference. The agricultural junk started well before the house and continued in most available directions. They deserve a listing for the amount of junk. I wonder if they get on with their neighbours at Oxendale Hall.
I picked up a lane taking me back to the A59 and after some time was able to cross safely this busy road. Once on the other side I had a choice of low level field paths back to my start or climb up onto Mellor Moor, the weather had improved and I knew the view from up there was worthwhile. Hence, I started the slow trudge up the lane and onto the open moor. Stopping for breath gave me an excellent view of Pendle.
The top of the moor is marked by a trig point but more unusually by the site of a nuclear monitoring post. A plaque relates its history. The Lancashire Telegraph had this write-up.
Concrete blocks amid the swaying grass are the only outward signs of what used to be a large underground nuclear monitoring post for the Royal Observer Corps, which opened in 1959. It closed just nine years later and has since been sealed.
Three men would have entered the post during times of potential nuclear attack and reported on explosions read off special equipment installed to read blast pressure, power and flash. The bunker, therefore, had its own source of power, ventilation, communications, sanitation, food and water.
The monitoring post was just one of 1,500 across the country which would be able to track and report any nuclear fall out, keeping the local population informed of the level of danger. Thankfully they were only ever used for training and exercises.
In the Second World War, an above ground look-out post was built here, too, by the Royal Observer Corps, for spotting identifying and tracking hostile or friendly aircraft flying over this part of East Lancashire.
A direction indicator has also been installed for the far-reaching 360 degree views across the surrounding countryside, Wales, the Lakes and Yorkshire as well as all the nearby Lancashire hills. Apparently this was also the site of a Roman signalling station, overlooking Ribchester from around AD 80. Earthworks are marked on the map but I’ve never identified them on the ground.
Pointing to Bowland.
I intended to follow footpaths back down the moor but came across this unfriendly gate. Not one to turn back on a public footpath I entered the grounds leaving the gate ajar in case of a hasty retreat. No hounds appeared so I was able to progress to the next obstructed stile. Why do people buy properties knowing there are rights of way through them only to do their best to keep the public out? Another one for reporting to the local authority.
More friendly fields took me down and across the A59 again to bring me back into Osbaldeston. Today I was luckier and my friends in Mellor Brook were home so a pleasant glass of wine was enjoyed in their garden before coming home to cook my supper.
Where haven’t I been for a while? Well it’s several years since I explored the countryside visible southwards across the River Ribble. In the past I thought that the footpaths were difficult to follow and rights of way ignored on the ground. Time for a revisit. So I found myself parked up in Balderstone; a school, a church and a couple of houses. I waved to a man delivering hay to one of the houses and then I was off along quiet country lanes. At Lane Ends I visited a trig point, for no obvious reason, at the lofty height of 74 m.
My first objective was to visit Balderstone Hall on the River Ribble and view from this side the former ford across to Alston. I’ve recently been looking at this scene from the Alston side.
A pleasant stroll down fields above the river brought me out into the confines of expensive and secluded properties. A right of way was shown on the map but it looked daunting. As it happened a couple of builders whom I knew were working on a wall of the Hall, they said nobody was about and showed me the way through past the rather intimidating signs. I didn’t like the look of the river crossing, maybe in high summer and low water I’d be tempted. The old map marks the ford.
I retraced my steps and left the exclusive properties for a path past a more run down farm. Crossing fields on the flood plain I bypassed a large farm and climbed back up the escarpment to reach a road heading west to Bezza House. Years ago, when Bezza was a tree nursery, I used to come here with Dor and many of the trees in her and my garden originated from here. One in particular that she bought was the ‘handkerchief tree’ Davidia involucrata, an exotic specimen from China. It takes years to flower and so one spring whilst they were away for the day I went around with a ladder and white paper tissues which resembled the flowers from a distance. Suffice is to say that they were well and truly tricked but the tree had the last laugh by flowering the next year and every year since.
There are great views from up here of the Thirlmere Aqueduct crossing the River Ribble.
Where the road used to continue bollards have appeared and now only a bridleway continues to Samlesbury. And what a pleasant bridleway it was; lined with spring flowers, bordering fields full of lambs and having views across the Ribble to Alston, Longridge and beyond.
It was getting near lunchtime so I hurried to reach St. Leonard the Less Church where I expected there to be seats. I was not disappointed, in fact a couple of walkers were already occupying the prime bench. The church unfortunately was closed. It has some very old box pews, apparently. I had to be content with the exterior views of the oldest, C16th, sandstone part and the distinctive tower built at the end of the C19th. In the graveyard was an ancient sundial, 1742, and a large font, 1769. The adjacent primary school is also of a certain vintage, I’m always cautious taking photos near schools.
A path climbed fields towards a house which turned out to be another religious establishment, the Roman Catholic Church of Saint John Southworth and presbytery.
An old sunken track high above the busy A59 was a hidden delight to walk. Peace came to an abrupt end when a stile deposited me onto the pavement adjacent to the traffic lights at the busy junction next to the Five Barred Gate motel.
Once across safely I was happy to follow the quiet lane past the extensive sewage works. Up and down it went until I was able to take a footpath across to another lane, thus by-passing the Nabs Head pub which has too many recent memories for me. I was soon on the pavement outside the C15th Samlesbury Hall. What a magnificent building this is and to think it was bought in 1920 for demolition, only to be saved by a local trust. I crept into the grounds for a closed look.
Crossing the busy road I made use of a quiet bridleway, Park Lane, taking me to Mellor Brook. I wished I’d had a bag to collect some wild garlic. From up here I could look across the extensive BAE site and the Ribble Valley to Longridge and the Bowland Hills.
I took a footpath behind houses where friends live hoping for a cuppa, but they were not at home. This humble little stream, Mellor Brook, once fed a mill pond that supplied water to a cotton mill.
The village deserves a better look with little alleyways and old houses. An unknown lane went under the A59 and out into the countryside. Fields headed back to Balderstone with the church spire always prominent. On the way I passed the grand looking Grange, you could rent its nine bedrooms on Airbnb for £2000 per night.
Arriving back at the school I was greeted by the man who’d seen me set off this morning. Turned out he was the school caretaker and seemed impressed by my modest mileage. I had time for a look around the outside of St. Leonards Church. It dates from the C16th but was rebuilt in the 1850s, the tower and prominent steeple were added in 1905 by those old favourites of Lancashire church architecture Austin and Paley.
I have had perfect weather for today’s enjoyable amble in this delightful backwater just off the A59. It was worth crossing the Ribble. Looking at the map I will return and complete another circuit to the east based on Osbaldeston.
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.