Tag Archives: River Hodder

DISTRACTED IN THE WOODS.

                                                       The River Hodder from the Higher Bridge.

The roads at this end of  Longridge Fell were still closed as they damped down the forest fires so I drove to the far end and parked near Higher Hodder Bridge. My plan was a short evening walk up to Kemple End quarry for a bit of bouldering.

I always enjoy the path through the trees above the Hodder. The spring foliage on the trees cut out some of the river views. Normally I spot herons, kingfishers and dippers on this stretch but not tonight.  But I was enjoying the way so much that I ignored the intended path that would have taken me up the fell and I continued along the river.

A mother and her two children were engrossed in the river.

The path at one point climbs away from the river and I knew of the cross in the woods on this stretch, Stonyhurst Park Cross stands above the River Hodder close to the former preparatory school, Hodder Place [now apartments]. A new cross was fixed to the ancient base in 1910, and was blessed on 12 June 1910 by the Jesuit provincial, Father Sykes; the origin of the earlier monument is unknown.

[This set me thinking – I had passed the Pinfold Cross near Stockbridge yesterday and I knew of two more crosses possibly related to Stonyhurst. Saint Paulinus’ Cross near Kemple End and Cross Gills Farm Cross near the Ribble. There is some evidence that pupils of Stonyhurst would walk between the four crosses on Palm Sunday. That seemed a ready-made walk for me to follow. But looking at the map I found another unnamed cross in the woods near SD672398 and there is a cross of uncertain age in Hurst Green. Watch this space.]

Today I noticed a faint path leading up into the woods behind the cross which I followed to some steep old steps. I climbed up these higher into the trees where I found another little path heading onwards. I imagined I would be able to cut across directly to Kemple End but at the edge of the woods were barbed wire fences and ahead unknown fields with what looked like one of those glamping developments. I did have a good view of Pendle from up here above the trees before I retreated all the way back down to the cross.

I knew the accepted footpath out of the woods up lots of steps and into fields leading to Stonyhurst, this is part of the now popular Tolkien Trail.

So I found myself on the lane around the college. It was a beautiful sunny evening and I wandered on. I became a little lost again in the fields but found my way up to Kemple End, it had taken me longer than I thought to reach here. There were the usual good views, particularly to Whalley Viaduct prominent below the Nab and the Hameldon Hills in the background.

A short walk down the lane and  I was back in fields heading towards the river. Halfway down my phone rang and while I took the rather long call I found a nice grassy area in the sunshine to lie down on. Later a bit further on I was crossing the footbridge which replaced a stone clapper bridge and wanted to take a photo. I realised I’d lost my camera, probably while I’d been reclining. I  retraced my steps and then spent a good 15minutes combing the slope I’d been on before I spotted the camera.

 

The old clapper bridge.

I was soon back at Higher Hodder Bridge. I hadn’t really met anyone, perfect.

*****

 

ON THE ROAD TO NOWHERE.

I’m content to sit and peruse OS maps on a cold, wet and windy day.  In front of me is the 1:25000 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale [OL41]. I’m not too keen on double-sided maps, especially in a howling gale when you always need the reverse side. but the west side covers my local hills. Unfortunately, Longridge lies off the edge of this sheet and another, the Blackpool and Preston [Explorer 285].  It just makes the edge of Explorer 287, West Pennine Moors. All very difficult for a days walk.

Back to OL41 what takes my notice just now is a “dead-end”  public right of way path leaving the Chaigley Road opposite Walker Fold and heading to the River Hodder – ‘a road to nowhere’

Curiosity aroused I wondered about its origins, the fact that it ends at the river suggests there may have been a ford here in times past, but there is no path marked on the other bank. Does anybody ever walk this dead-end path? maybe fishermen and presumably the local farmers. Does it even exist on the ground? Lancashire C.C. still shows it as a right of way on their website. On an older map, I see that the trees at its end are named Limekiln Wood, could there have been a lime kiln at the end of the track?

The sun is coming out this afternoon, time to explore and see where I get to.

I was apprehensive as I left the road at Walker Fold. The footpath sign was hidden in the foliage, the lane looked private and there was a lot of water flowing everywhere. I have to admit to carrying wire cutters in my pocket. The first ‘obstacle’ would be the grounds of the properties on the lane but I needn’t have worried  – there was a stile with an arrow pointing me across their land via more stiles and a little bridge. Soon I was in open fields with well-constructed and maintained stiles showing the way, many of these appeared relatively new. In fact, this was country walking as it should be, the sign of a responsible landowner?  The only downside was the rain saturated fields courtesy of our recent storms.  A footbridge crossed a lively stream and the path weaved through plantations. Ahead on the horizon was the familiar outline of the Bowland Fells.

Once over a farm access road, my gravelled track started to descend towards the Hodder which could be heard before it was seen. Sheep looked at me as though they rarely saw anybody, mind you they always look like that. And then there I was stood next to the raging river with as I’d guessed a lime kiln built into the hillside. Along the banks were the limestone crags, the raison d’etre of the kiln and the original path. There was another clue as to the path’s continued existence – a small fishing hut and stiles giving access to the river. Lancashire Fly Fishing Association maintain this stretch.

What an idyllic spot on a summers day but at the moment the river is in flood mode and roaring down the valley. I was in a different world down here, the hidden Hodder, and for half an hour or so I watched in awe.

Downstream.

 

Upstream.

Mission completed I retraced my steps up the hill and used the road back to Walker Fold to avoid the worst of the soggy fields. A couple of things to note in this little hamlet of less than a dozen houses. It won the Lancashire’s best kept hamlet competition in 1994 and 2006 and boasts an old School/Chapel with links to The Latter-day Saints movement back in the mid C19th.

Now let’s have a closer look at those maps again…

 

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 3. LONGRIDGE FELL TO DUNSOP BRIDGE.

Across Chipping Vale.

Here I am back at the trig point on Longridge Fell, it is a beautiful, cold but sunny Autumn day. Sir Hugh has joined the fun and we’ve taken one car to Dunsop Bridge and driven back to park below the fell. I’m sorry we are not keeping to AW’s use of public transport.

A warm-up walk and a catch-up chat soon sees us on the ridge with the compulsory visit to the summit trig. A few people are wandering about up here not wanting to miss the good weather. After a photo session and orientation of distant hills, mainly the Fairsnape ridge, Bowland and the Three Peaks, we find the steep rake dropping down into the Vale of Chipping, spread out below us. Our distant destination of Dunsop Bridge visible in the folds of the fells. This brings us to the road next to the Bradley Hall complex of buildings. WW says to go through the complex but our more modern map says go round the diversion to the left. This is the start of troublesome field navigation for the next mile or so. The waymarks run out, the paths run out, the stiles disappear, the fields get boggier and we are left to our own devices, no fences were damaged, no wires cut when we finally stumbled down a ladder stile onto the road next to Doeford Bridge. I think it took us longer than we realised.

A sign tells us we are entering the Queen’s land which we enjoy for the rest of today

.

This beautiful sandstone bridge spans the Hodder just downstream from where the River Loud joins having come out of Chipping Vale. The bridge is sketched in AW’s Bowland book.

Doeford Bridge. 1981. A Wainwright

There was a good volume of water today after several days of heavy rain. Having crossed another field we dropped down to the Hodder which had looped round a different way.  I wanted to have a look at the stepping stones next to Stakes farm so we made the short diversion, there was no way you could have crossed the river here today. Luckily we found a bench overlooking the river and stopped for lunch.

AW?

Behind us was Stakes Farm an early C17th house with mullioned windows and a plaque in Latin, translation please. Amazingly a brick extension has been built into the angle between the two wings.

We follow fields just above the river. The area between Longridge Fell and the Bowland fells is beautiful and unknown countryside, especially in today’s sunny weather, backed by the dark hills. Across the river used to be a ‘Wild boar park’ but it has closed recently. We cross the road into more fields running above the Whiewell Gorge where the river runs deep in the woods. [It is on the opposite bank that you can find the Fairy Hole caves.] Views into the Bowland Fells surrounding Dunsop Bridge keep us going.

I think we are following one of the aqueducts taking water out of the to industrial Lancashire, the distinctive Waterboard gates accompany us. We drop down past a graveyard and pop out onto the road next to the famous Inn at Whitewell. There is time to have a look into the adjacent Church of St. Michael with its striking stained glass window.  We resisted calling at the inn as time was drifting on and I think once seated it would have been difficult to get going again. A permissive path close to The Hodder leads deeper into Bowland with the next feature sketched by AW – Burholme Bridge.

Above us on the right was the distinctive Birkett Fell scene of one of our recent struggles. Our pace was slowing and instead of the familiar track by the river to Thorneyholme we crossed the pipe bridge, erected by Blackburn Borough Waterboard in 1882. with its unusual turnstile gates at either end. The way along the river was convoluted as we bypassed Root Farm famous for Kettledrum, a Derby winner bred hereabouts. Our arrival into Dunsop Bridge was unfortunately too late to have tea at Puddleducks Cafe.

Dunsop Bridge.   A Wainwright 1981.

We reflected on this wonderful crossing of Chipping Vale, Lancashire at its very best but wondered why 8 miles seemed so far. I was glad I’d divided this stage of WW into two enjoyable days, days to be savoured.

Here is an evening photo of the rake we descended from Longridge Fell early in the day.

Possibly Sir Hugh may have a different view of the day.   http://conradwalks.blogspot.com/

*****

WAINWRIGHT’S WAY. 1. BLACKBURN TO WHALLEY.

Escaping the city.

My train was full of lively pre-match Blackburn supporters. Most didn’t have tickets and exited the station somehow, I was glad I wouldn’t be on their train after the match. AW was a lifelong Rovers supporter.

Outside the station, as I gathered my bearings I was struck by the number of expensive-looking cars, with modified exhausts and booming stereos, cruising around aimlessly at high speeds. I refrain from comment.

I began the long walk up Audley Range. Mills at the lower end near the canal have gone and been replaced by budget shopping units. From the canal upwards AW would have had almost a mile of two-up, two-down terraced housing. There has been demolition in parts giving little cul-de-sac estates. a mosque and many Asian shops but the higher you get the more you are attuned into AW’s time when he trudged up and down from the centre to number 331, his birthplace and where he lived until 1931 when he married. Until 1935 a tram ran halfway up before going to Queen’s Park.

I couldn’t resist calling in at one of the little Asian ‘Sweet Shops’ to buy a couple of samosas for my lunch.

Fittingly there is a plaque on 331 to commemorate Wainwright though I wonder whether any of the Asian population hereabouts will realise the significance. Opposite his house is an open space formerly a brickworks producing the millions of bricks for the housing and mills.

I reached busy roads on the edge of town. Up here AW attended primary schools, now demolished under ring roads and Tescos. I was glad to turn down to the Leeds – Liverpool Canal at Gorse Bridge. The canal would have been lined by warehouses and mills and here is one of the last, the derelict Imperial Mill once employing 300 until closing eventually in 1958. Many of the mills diversified into minor industries after cotton had crashed.

The canalside walk took me past the Whitebirk Estate, shops and car salerooms, and under the maize of roads connecting with the motorway system. One always sees things differently from a canal and then the next time I drive around these roads I’ll reminisce to myself and try and spot the canal. I ate my samosas as I walked the towpath and realised they had quite a kick to them.

Before long I was in a more rural landscape and leaving the canal to climb steeply up onto the ridge of Harwood Moor. An old bridge is crossed, this is the line of the former Blackburn to Padiham railway. The industrial landscape is left behind and suddenly you have a view of Longridge Fell, the Bowland Hills, Yorkshire peaks and Pendle. It was these northern edges of Blackburn that AW  explored as a youngster and subsequently with work colleagues. A certain Harry Green wrote a regular walking column in the newspaper and produced some guidebooks to the area and into the Ribble Valley and Longridge Fell.  One of AW’s walking companions, Lawrence Wolstenholme, kept a diary of Harry Green inspired walks and his descendants still have a copy of Rambles by Highway, Lane and Field Path. H Green 1920. So it is certain that they walked these trails out of Blackburn.

I entered a farmyard patrolled by a bull and hesitated before rushing to the other side and safety. All the fields up here seemed to contain frisky bullocks so I did a little creative road walking to get me on my way. I was soon on a higher ridge with even more extensive views.

Looking back to Blackburn.

Longridge Fell and the distant Bowland Fells.

Down a reedy path to the Dean Clough Reservoirs with Pendle in the background and then I make my own way up above them to come out onto Moor Lane above Langho, it was only last week that I visited The  Lord Nelson Inn here for lunch. Its a very basic but friendly pub with good beer and a limited home-cooked menu,  a couple came in and asked about dining “have you a gluten-free option?”   “No!” was the simple answer.

I didn’t have time today to call in for a pint but marched off along the virtually traffic-free Moor Lane. At one point I glimpsed a deer eyeing me through the trees. Whalley Nab is at the end of the lane directly above Whalley and the River Calder. The River Calder flows through Whalley to join the Ribble, leaving behind its industrial hinterland where in the distance can be seen the Martholme Viaduct which carried the aforementioned Blackburn to Padiham railway. I had a birds-eye view of the Ribble Valley and Whalley, making out the street plan and the more famous railway viaduct over the Clitheroe – Blackburn line I travelled this morning. The Ribble Valley was one of AW’s many sketchbooks done in later life, Nick Burton has illustrated his text with some of these sketches.  It will be interesting to compare AW’s views with my own as I proceed.

A Wainwright 1980

Before I knew it I was crossing the Calder into the busy main street. The impressive 13thC church was closed. Whilst waiting for my bus I had a very short time to look round the Abbey ruins, free entry today – Heritage Week or something. They deserve more so I’ll return for a longer visit.

 

I’ve finished the first stage of Wainwright’s Way and I’m looking forward to the rural walking to come.

*****

A RURAL RAMBLE FROM BASHALL EAVES.

28 years ago I remember a footpath above the River Hodder coming to an abrupt stop where a bridge was falling down. My son Chris and I were on a backpacking trip around the old Lancashire boundary. We had left Mossley, East of Manchester, and worked our way through high Pennine country, Pendle, Ribble Valley and now we were heading north through Bowland towards Arnside. After getting through the no access, closed and danger barriers we balanced precariously across crumbling masonry high above a stream and carried on our way. Do I have a photo somewhere of that day?  I often wondered what happened to that bridge above Mill Brook. Today I set off to find out.

I parked next to the village hall in Bashall Eaves and set off along a farm track to Mason Green Farm. This turned out to be one of those almost industrial sized complexes. By chance I found a way around it and across fields, full of cows, in the right direction towards Agden Farm which seemed to be a Land Rover hospital. Numerous varieties of the marque were lined up in various states of repair, from a barn there were sounds of restoration.

The overgrown path dropped into a gully, the first of many today, and climbed out steeply on recently installed steps. Somebody must come here. I was now in pastures surrounded by all the familiar fells, Pendle, Longridge Fell and the Fairsnape group. I disturbed a few deer as I dropped into the next gully in Paper Mill Woods. This steep and rather slippery descent took me onto the banks of the River Hodder, full from the last few days’ rain. This is about the only access to the Hodder between Doeford Bridge upstream to Higher Hodder Bridge below. This makes me think that I must be on The Hodder Way a route devised by Clitheroe Ramblers and one I walked in recent times – I have no recollection of this demanding stage.  There was no bridge across the stream but it was no problem to hop across.

Climbing away from the river I pass three magnificent oaks. In the next field of long grass, my only objective is an ash tree on the horizon. Then it is down once more into woods and a difficult descent of a bluff to reach that bridge from years ago, now converted to a wooden structure spanning the stone abutments. There are references to Roman times but I think that is unlikely even though they passed by quite closely. This is a deep ravine, Mill Brook, and the new wooden bridge, rebuilt in 1997, is more impressive than in the photo.

A vague path climbed up through the woods to emerge into fields with open views to the fells. These were crossed and a final dip overcome to reach a track which follows a Roman road, Ribchester to Kirkby Lonsdale. It had taken me two hours to cover three miles and I was ready for a break and a snack.

Onwards I followed the lane to Lees House Farm, now supporting several developments. It’s called diversification. Steep paths lead down to a stream, Mill Brook once again.  Coming up the other side into an overgrown field was not easy if there was a path I didn’t find it.

From here to Micklehurst Farm was straightforward though I managed to herd a lot of sheep in front of me. This morning it had been all cows and now sheep everywhere. Barking dogs, thankfully chained, followed my progress through the farmyard. I’ve passed the road end to Micklehurst Farm many times, I think they are distant relations,  I never realised how far off the road the are.

On the corner is one of the entrances to Browsholme Hall, South Lodge, I sneaked a photo of the gatehouse and cottage.

Now I was onto little-used roads through woodlands some of which are described as nature reserves. I met a couple leisurely ambling down the lane, they had been out birdwatching.

Further on an old Alvis Speed was parked up. It was in fantastic condition. The owner working in a field nearby was obviously proud of the vehicle,1932,  – “all original bodywork”. He admitted that the engine wasn’t firing correctly, hence the bonnet was up for tinkering.

I continued down the lane to reach Saddle Bridge which I mentioned in a recent post.  It is always good to look at things from a different angle and I can’t resist a photo of a packhorse bridge.

Returning back up the path, Rugglesmire is passed, I trespassed a little to try and see the grade II farmhouse.

Into the hamlet of Bashall Eaves, a few cottages with evocative names – The Old School House, The Vicarage, The Old Forge, The Post Office etc.

The Old Forge.

There is also an old Lancashire Cheese press.

Just down the lane is The Red Pump, now a thriving inn/restaurant but it has a dark history. In 1934 a farmer, Jim Douglas, was shot whilst walking home from the pub and died later of his wounds. Investigations were hampered by a “wall of silence” from the villagers and the mystery has never been solved. There is talk of ghosts…..

I usually show a map of my wanderings below and I would suggest that any local readers of my posts try this unknown area. The first half of the walk is particularly scenic and interesting – the best of rural Lancashire, and the paths could with a bit more footfall.

*****

 

TOTRIDGE FELL, BOWLAND.

 Last night after a bouldering session at Craig y Longridge I drove up the fell and took in the familiar view over Chipping Vale to the Bowland Hills. In front of me were the Fairsnape, Wolf, Saddle, Burnslack and Totridge Fells. How many times have I photographed this scene?  I’ve not been on the easterly of these for several years so there and then I decided on a full traverse of the range today. For every 100 visitors to Fairsnape there is probably only one on Totridge.

I can’t explain why I sat in bed with a couple of coffees delaying my departure. Sloth had taken control and it was with a great deal of difficulty that I finally emerged and started the walk at 11am. By then I realised a full traverse and return of 13 miles or so was impractical and I opted for a shorter 9miles from Saddle End, missing out Fairsnape. The heat of the last few days was diminished by a westerly breeze. Old tracks rise up from Saddle End farm and soon the open moor is reached. A steady metronomic pace is tapped out by my walking poles as I gain ground. There is not a soul in sight.

Saddle End Farm and fell.

On the 26th March 1962 three siblings left home and travelled by bus to Chipping and
walked over the fells, maybe to Langden Castle, on their return over Saddle Fell they were caught in a blizzard which resulted in the two brothers losing their lives due to hypothermia. Their sister survived to raise the alarm at Saddle End Farm. There was no Mountain Rescue Team in the area at that time so police and locals searched with BAC loaning a helicopter to help. Shortly after this tragedy two Mountain Rescue teams were formed in the area, the forerunners of Bowland Pennine MRT.

I mention the above because it is thought the boys may have sheltered in a small stone hut. I remember early walks on Saddle Fell in the 70’s the hut being by the track I’m on today, its roof was almost intact. Now it is a pile of stones but with a tragic history which I recollect every time I pass.
Reaching the wild top of Saddle Fell ignoring the track to Fairsnape I turned east at the watershed to follow the fence towards Totridge seen a couple of miles away. This stretch of fell is usually one of the boggiest in the area, I’ve been pulled out of the depths on one occasion,  deciding which side of the fence is the least hazardous often means crossing repeatedly without any real advantage. Today however the peaty ground was bone dry and I could just enjoy the scenery without any risk of sinking, the wooden poles placed to give buoyancy in wet conditions totally unneeded. [By the way the best ‘path’ is on the left of the fence.]

The views are far stretching over the Bowland area and all the hills and valleys I’ve been walking recently are identifiable. The Yorkshire Three Peaks are in the hazy background. Difficult to capture on camera.

Up here in this bleak wilderness one plant brightened up the peat bogs – the yellow starry flowered Bog Asphodel.

All I had to do was follow the fence, there is one pond to navigate found and a short section above Whitmore where you leave the fence at a tangent and take off into the peat to regain a wall in a short distance before rising onto Totridge and a final open track to the trig point at 496m. The trig pillar is looking decidedly unstable as the peat below it erodes, it will topple before long.

From the top a small path, not marked on the map, heads NE to drop steeply off the fell towards Mellor Knoll. If the correct line is taken zigzags descend quite pleasantly, not so pleasant ascending.  Halfway down today I found a place to sit, eat my sandwiches and contemplate the views over the Dunsop and Hodder valleys. In the distance over Mellor Knoll was a glimpse of Stocks Reservoir I walked around last week and closer at hand, above the Hodder, the tree capped Birkett Fell again climbed recently.

Over Mellor Knoll to Stocks and Yorkshire.

Birkett Fell, Waddington Fell and distant Pendle.                                                       

I dropped down to the fell wall and joined the bridleway coming from Hareden which goes into woods of beech and chestnut where I met the first people of the day, three gents enjoying the area.

My way back was on a series of bridleways and paths linking remote farms in the limestone country below the fells. Higher Fence Wood, Dinkling Green and Lickhurst. From the latter the track went further back up into the fells than I remember and I speeded up a little as bad weather was coming in.

Lickhurst Farm.

I used to cycle these ways when my children were getting into mountain biking, I don’t remember these stepping stones by a ford below Burnslack.

I arrived back at the car just as the rain did, my dilatory start almost catching me out.

*****

 

STOCKS RESERVOIR WALK.

A couple of years ago I ended up walking around Stocks Reservoir almost by mistake from Slaidburn and realised too late there was a new path courtesy of NW Water actually crossing the dam wall to complete a shorter circuit. Today along with JD and Sir Hugh we enjoyed this shorter circuit of Stocks Reservoir.

We met up at a lonely spot on the road from Slaidburn to High Bentham. This is one of my favourite routes into Yorkshire, a little further from where we rendezvoused is Cross of Greet Bridge over the infant Hodder and from there the road goes up to a lonely pass between White Hill and Catlow Fell. Then a sweeping descent over the Tatham Fells into High Bentham passing on the way The Great Stone of Fourstones, a glacial erratic, perfect for bouldering on. I digress.

Our remote car park.

We were soon on the well waymarked trail but with no sign of the reservoir. A flagged path through fields took us down to the Hodder where a footbridge has replaced the original stepping stones. I realise all too late that at the centre of my camera lens is a blob of suntan cream – an amateur mistake which will plague me all day.   There is a memorial plaque to a Gil Moorehead for which I can find no information.

Chatting faltered as we climbed the steep slope to the ruins of New House, one of the many farms abandoned when The Fylde Water Board purchased land for water catchment in this valley around the time of WW1. From up here, we had our first sight of Stocks Reservoir which is named after the village of Stocks which disappeared under water when the dam was built and opened officially in 1932 flooding the valley. The adjacent Gisburn Forest appropriated more farming land. The history of the whole enterprise of constructing the reservoir is detailed on a fascinating website Dalehead and Stocks in Bowland.

As we walked down towards the water a trio of fellrunners passed us coming up the hill only to be encountered once again later in the day as they completed their circuit. We agreed that this is a ready-made perfect little run.

The path was varied with sections of woodland and open meadows. The latter were full of flowers at this time of year, orchids, foxgloves and many varieties of grasses.

There are birdwatching hides and we visited one overlooking the water. Below we could see many geese, cormorants, ducks and gulls but the lists of more proficient ‘twitchers’ were extensive with over 50 species seen some days.

Down at the main car park are the remains of St. James Church which was demolished and rebuilt on higher ground. We speculated on the origin of a nearby spectacular Weeping Beech.

Onwards a new path has been created to avoid the road until we reached the causeway, here mountain bikers swooped out of Gisburn Forest. Immediately we were back on a concessionary path above the reservoir and missed out seeing the resited St. James Chapel. We walked through meadows with good views over the water to the Bowland Fells, little boats carried fishermen to various parts of the Reservoir.

At the dam we crossed over the Hodder culvert and had lunch sat on top of the dam embankment watching fishermen cast into the waters with the occasional catch of rainbow trout.

The cafe for fishermen didn’t look inviting so we pushed on.

We were now walking on an old railway line up to a quarry where stone was supplied to the dam construction team.

We were soon back at the cars ready for a slow journey home…

*****

 

 

 

 

DUNSOP VALLEY AND BURN FELL, ANOTHER BOWLAND TOP.

Burn Fell seen on the approach along the Hodder Valley to Dunsop Bridge.

On the 2nd of January 1945, just before I was born, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, an American heavy bomber crashed on Burn Fell. The aircraft was being ferried from Seething in Norfolk to Warton near Preston, most of the passengers were a second aircrew who were going to fly another aircraft back to Seething. The crew had become disorientated in low cloud and snow showers, they obtained a radio fix on Warton and the pilot turned onto the appropriate heading to get to Warton and while flying at just 1500ft the aircraft flew into the top of Burn Fell, slewed round demolishing a stone wall and bursting into flames. Most of the aircraft was reduced to ashes, fortunately of the 19 aircrew onboard 15 of them survived the crash and subsequent fire. People from farms below the crash site came to rescue the surviors from the snowy hillside with makeshift stretchers and human strength.

I  passed the site of this disaster on today’s walk in Bowland.

A bright sunny morning and I was parked up in Dunsop Bridge before most people had stirred. The walk up into the Dunsop Valley is familiar and the water board road gives access to both the Brennand and Whitendale valleys, with the hill of Middle Knoll [not to be confused with nearby Mellor Knoll] between them. Where the roads split there is a small footbridge across the river which takes you onto a track up into Whitendale above the water.

Middle Knoll.

At Costy Clough the track gives way to a narrow path, This is delightful walking with the hills beckoning ahead whilst the water tumbles below. The farm at Whitendale comes into view, part of the royal Dutchy Estate. By now I was in fairly remote hill country and using trods through the heather, A sign post erected by the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society showed my options just above Whitendale Farm. I’ve never quiet known who they are. From this area I had a view to the southern face of Middle Knoll and was surprised to see how steep and rocky it looked.The lambs around here looked almost new born, very unsteady on their legs. A zig zagging track started to climb out of the valley onto Dunsop Fell, mainly to visit some shooting butts, but it gave me an easy way up to the watershed especially as the peat was less squelchy than usual. Suddenly there were people ahead of me, I caught them up at the top as they took in the views. A family group from Wigan who seemed to know the area well. Oh and here is another one of those signs.Where the three went down I contoured and found a path of sorts leading to the trig point on Burn Fell, 431m. Over to the east were the Three Peaks, Yorkshire’s finest. Below was Stocks Reservioir, Waddington Fell with its mast and behind that the big end of Pendle. I followed the wall past the trig with Totridge Fell ahead and the Hodder Valley stretching out towards Longridge Fell, these Bowland Fells group themselves closely together, I could clearly see the line of my Longridge Skyline Walk coming off Totridge Fell, over Mellor Knoll down to the Hodder. over Birkett Fell to Waddington Fell before dropping down to recross the Hodder and finish over Longridge Fell.

Over to Yorkshire with Stocks Reservoir.

A few 100 m past the summit I came across the remains of the B-24, bits of molten metal and glass. A cross has been erected and there is a stone memorial to the four airmen who lost their lives.

A track of sorts through the boggy heather slowly brought me off the fell and down a grassy rake towards Beatrix Farm. It was here that I started to encounter boxes/tunnels designed to trap stoats etc. as I neared pheasant breading copses. Inside each box was a strong spingloaded trap. I’m not sure of the legality of these traps as any prey would suffer a horrible death. The remains of a ?rabbit in one showed that they are not regularly checked. It was surprisingly how vicious they were when a stone was accidentally dropped onto a trap, or even several, or as many as I could find. Mea culpra.

A lane down into Dunsop Bridge gave easy walking after the rough stuff on the fells. Bluebell woods welcomed me into the hamlet at the centre of the Isles. Cups of tea at the cafe beckoned before my drive home. Today I had seen or heard wagtails, skylarks, oyster catchers, cuckoos, curlews, buzzards and whilst getting into the car a dipper on the stream below.*****

 

 

 

 

 

MELLOR KNOLL AND THE HODDER.

Totridge Fell and Mellor Knoll from Burholme Bridge at the start of the walk.

Mellor Knoll is a 344m lump in Bowland, I didn’t actually climb it but I came close.

I was in my dormouse mode this morning and stayed in bed with my second coffee looking at maps whilst the day warmed up. Eventually, I stirred and drove out to park at Burholme Bridge on the River Hodder. Early morning cyclists were already returning from their Trough of Bowland circuit, a popular ride with Lancashire cyclists: one of the most prominent I met later in the day. I last cycled it 5 years ago.

A quiet lane leads up into the limestone area of Bowland with its Reef Knolls and caves.  A footpath brought me onto the farm track to Whitmore, a lonely farm at the base of Totridge Fell. In the past there were free-range hens wandering about although today the scattered wooden hen-houses looked deserted.

 

Welcoming committee.

A bridleway takes off towards the woods on a track that was always muddy but tree felling has opened up the landscape and things are improved. This bridleway cuts through between the cone of Mellor Knoll and the parent fell of Totridge. Contouring the hillside was a joy with bluebells and fresh green beech leaves; views down to the snaking Hodder and the little known Birkett Fell, Waddington Fell and distant Pendle; towering above me was Totridge Fell with stone walls going straight up the steep slopes.

With all this excitement I wandered off course at the col and was heading the wrong way into Hareden Valley, it wouldn’t have mattered on this open ground but I traversed back to the correct track. Up here the hardy sheep only seem to have one lamb as opposed to their lowland softies with twins and triplets. Oh and this is how to mend a wall…

I was now looking down on the farms of Hareden with the Trough of Bowland in the background. The hounds at the farm always give you a greeting long before you arrive.

Crossing Hareden Brook [dippers were seen] and then Langden Brook brought me onto a short stretch of The Trough of Bowland road.

Looking up the ‘Trough’ road.

I followed this for a short way before I could continue across fields to the water board road following the River Dunsop past cottages to the hamlet.

I’m sure these weren’t designed for outdoor seating.

Mellor Knoll above the new houses in Dunsop Bridge.

This is a popular walking area and lots of families were out enjoying the sunny weather and the delights of Dunsop Bridge hamlet – often cited as the geographic centre of Great Britain, although different measurements give different results. I passed the BT phone box which celebrates this fact.

A line of tall pines leads to Thornyholme Hall and farm over a bridge on the Hodder. The last time I passed here in 2013 a chain saw artist was just beginning rendering a stump into a statue of the thinking man and the results were seen today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a lovely stretch along the River Hodder, ducks and their ducklings were swimming by the bridge and further on I watched sand martins going back and forth to their holes in a sandbank. If you click and enlarge the photo I actually caught some of them in flight and at the nest entrances. It was on this stretch I met an elderly couple walking towards me on a short river ramble, somehow the conversation turned to cycling and it transpired that the 80yr old gent was Dave Brown. He had been a prominent racing cyclist with impressive time trial results over all distances, only retiring after he had passed 70yrs. https://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/sport/3829912.east-lancashire-cyclist-retires-after-53-years/  He told me he had written a weekly cycling column in the Lancashire Telegraph for 40 years until they recently decided to scrap it!  We swapped tales of cycling in the past, what a lovely chance encounter.

Soon I was back at Burholme Bridge having completed an interesting, if modest, 7 mile circuit feeling privileged to be living within this beautiful Bowland area.

 

*****

 

SKIPTON TO LONGRIDGE 4 – A sunny Longridge Fell.

Longridge Fell from the south, Kemple End is the steep bit at the right.

Higher Hodder Bridge to Longridge.

JD and I are sat in the bus station at Clitheroe waiting for the Skipton bus to arrive with the pieman on board. The alloted time passes and we wonder if we are in the right place, we circle the area in our car but no sign of him or the bus. The phone call elicits that the bus broke down! We look at each other and as the day is dismal and I lack enthusiasm we drive home  for other pastimes,  ie gardening.

Fast forward 24 hours and we are sat in Clitheroe bus station once again. I must admit the weather was far better today so we hoped the pieman would arrive. He did and within 10 minutes we are parked up at Higher Hodder Bridge at the base of Kemple End, the east end of Longridge Fell. After a stretch by the Hodder we start a fairly easy zigzag ascent of the fell. Behind us were views across the Ribble Valley to Pendle and Waddington Fell. We emerged at the road and stripped down to shirts for the rest of the 1000ft ascent in increasing temperatures.

Higher Hodder Bridge.

Climbing Kemple End, Pendle in the background.

Layers coming off.

A mixture of tracks and paths through the forest where there has been a lot of clearances of late, a magic route opened up in front of us. The lighting seemed to transport us to some alpine approach but there were no snowy peaks above. Familiar tracks head up the fell though in some places wind damaged trees create diversions. We came out of the trees at a well known viewpoint overlooking Bowland, the Three Yorkshire Peaks were in haze.

Magic light amongst the trees.

There is a way through.

More uprooted trees.

That viewpoint.

Our guest from Yorkshire is impressed by the scenery and we eventually arrive at Spire Hill the summit of Longridge Fell at 350m. At the trig point is a man talking on short wave radio as part of the Summits on the Air scheme.  He was mainly concerned with radioing his position although he requested a summit photo. Listening in to his pointless conversation with some unknown person made me think why we climb summits. We were sweating from our exertion, ready for lunch, breathing in the air and enjoying the situation and views particulrly of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills. It takes all sorts.

Radio ham.

Well deserved lunch with a little Brexit chat.

We had been climbing steadily all morning but from now it was gently downhill. The view over the Fylde was rather hazy but the sunshine became warmer as the day wore on. There was some unavoidable road walking past the golf club. This now popular venue had humble beginnings as a 9 hole course which was amalgamated with Preston Cycling Club at the beginning of the 20th century. They built an early clubhouse shared with the golfers and as time passed the golf developed and the cyclists moved elsewhere but the badge still remembers the joint beginnings.

Heading down with Parlick and Fairsnape in the distance.

When it all started.

Present day signage.

We took to fields again and entered Longridge via the old railway line used by the stone quarries. We had spent the whole time walking Longridge Fell, about 7miles as the crow flies, hence its name. Cutting through the streets we completed our house to house route from Skipton. Well that’s another of my straight lines accomplished and very enjoyable it has been; beautiful varied scenery, interesting history and good companionship with enough exercise on each occasion to fill a winter’s day. But now Spring is upon us thoughts drift to wider horizons.

*****

THE TOLKIEN TRAIL.

I was weary from my day’s exertions with Sir Hugh on our SD 38 walk which involved quite a bit of travelling time today so I asked JD to sort something out for the morrow whilst I soaked in the bath.

He had researched in a book ‘Birdwatching Walks In Bowland’ by David Hindle…

… and came up with The Tolkien Trail.

Author J.R.R. Tolkien regularly stayed at Stonyhurst College in the Ribble Valley whilst his son was studying there. It is thought, perhaps optimistically, that he derived inspiration for his Lord of the Rings trilogy from the surrounding scenery. So JD had conjured up a historical and ornithological walk for this lovely sunny day, if I’d thought I would have brought my binoculars.  There is plenty of information for The Tolkien Trail on the VisitLancashire web site.

We started in Hurst Green and were surprised at the amount of housing development creeping into the green fields. A well used path into Stonyhurst College sports grounds, but there is a new sport, clay pigeon shooting, and warning signs have been erected as well as a probably ineffective ‘alarm bell’.

I had recently been reading of the original observatory at the college built in 1838 and succeeded by the modern one in 1866. So as we approached the school buildings I was keen to identify them both, old and new.

We walked out past the gardener’s cottage and then the houses of Woodfields were masters live. Pleasant fields take you into Over Hacking Woods and a staircase down to meet the Hodder. We hadn’t seen many birds up to this point, apart from Robins singing full throat, but the woods had a truly Tolkien atmosphere.

Below us were the original ruined changing rooms for the college’s swimming lessons in the river, I think they have an indoor pool nowadays. I mentioned these in a recent post when we passed this way. Up the slope is Hodder Court previously a preparatory school, but now private dwellings with a statue of Gandalf in one of the gardens. shame the trail leaflet doesn’t mention it. See the above post for pictures.

An Australian couple were following us with their friendly dog and it couldn’t wait to get immersed in the river. We saw a few ducks along this wonderful stretch of the Hodder.

This was the third time I’d arrived at Lower Hodder Bridge in a week so didn’t intend to show more views of ‘Cromwell’s Bridge’ however when we joined The Ribble Way and rose above the river there was a good view back down to the two bridges.

We knew about the heronry in the tall trees next to Winkley Hall Farm and sure enough we saw Herons flying in to their nests. Whilst watching them I spotted a small bird flitting through the hedge, a rare sight of a Gold Crest.

Where the Hodder meets the Ribble we found a fisherman’s hut with a bench, a perfect spot for lunch and watching the rivers run by.

Along the next stretch is the site of Hacking Ferry used until 1955, the last boat is in Clitheroe Castle Museum apparently. Across the river is the 17th century Hacking Hall near where the Calder enters the Ribble.

An Egret was spotted on the far bank, a couple of Canada Geese also but no Kingfishers or Dippers.

Before long we left the river and headed back to Hurst Green coming through the car park of the Shireburn Arms, we were tempted by a pint but looking at the state of our muddy boots decided not to. All day Pendle had been brooding in the background.

*****

SKIPTON TO LONGRIDGE 3 – the two rivers.

Chatburn to Hodder Bridge.

As you may know I’m juggling a couple of routes giving winter walking, the northing SD38 across England with Sir Hugh and this shorter walk with The Pieman between our two towns. We meet up outside Hudson’s Ice Cream Parlour where we finished last time. I’ve enrolled JD [aka Doug] into today’s stroll, The Pieman appears from behind the ice cream cone.

We left the road by the church and followed paths down towards the river. An area popular with dog walkers judging by the number of poo bags hanging in hedges, I’ve given up commenting.

The Ribble was full with last night’s rain and snow melt. We were now on The Ribble Way skirting round the massive Horrocksford complex which produces a significant amount of England’s cement. The first bridge we came to was at West Bradford. After this we entered  a sculpture trail on the outskirts of Clitheroe. I think we missed most of the sculptures but noticed a few. None was outstanding.

After Brungerley Bridge we looked across to the impressive Waddow Hall a 17th century building owned by the Girls Guide Association and nowadays used as a wedding venue.Somewhere along here we passed muddy paddocks and then got sucked into new housing developments, they are everywhere, to arrive back onto the road at the sports centre. In the recreational ground we found a bench to watch the river go by and eat lunch. Edisford Bridge was built, at a former ford, in the 14th century and until 1600 was the only bridge upstream from Preston.

On the far side of the bridge is the eponymous hotel, having eaten we walked on by.

Complicated field paths led across to the complex of buildings at Withgill. All the while Kemple End, the eastern end of Longridge Fell, loomed above us, our onward route for another day.

The scenery improved and the paths became more interesting as we dropped down to the River Hodder.The river was crossed by the Higher Hodder Bridge with its historical boundary markings.This bridge is on our Skipton to Longridge line and from here our route will be up Kemple End and along Longridge Fell. But to finish off today we want to show the Yorkshireman some stunning scenery alongside the Hodder between the bridges.The familiar path undulates above the Hodder in splendid isolation. At one point a cross is seen, it has no inscription and local opinion is that it marks the spot of a drowning.Above us is the Stonyhurst estate and the long established Jesuit College. Down by the river are the remains of bathing houses where pupils changed before a bracing swim.And yet above us are buildings previously used by St. Mary’s Hall, a preparatory school for Stonyhurst College. It was closed in 1970 and converted into high-end living accommodation. There is a connection between Stonyhurst and Tolkien and hence there is a carving of Gandalf, the wizard, in the garden.

All that remained was a stroll alongside the Hodder to the Lower Bridge where the customany diversion was made onto Cromwell’s Bridge.

We had finished for the day. Rather mundane but highly enjoyable.

*****

DEEPER INTO CHIPPING VALE.

The Lazy Loud River.

There was a beautiful sunrise today which heralded good weather to come.

I’d arranged with JD to continue our intimate exploration of Chipping Vale by following as close as possible the little River Loud on its way to join the Hodder. My route was ambitious as from previous experience I know some of these paths are rarely walked. I was hoping for an easy day because of my recent stiffness and should have been concerned with the first stile we encountered off the road, awkward and overgrown.

Dr. Livingstone I presume.

To be honest we never really found a convincing path through the fields to the limestone Knainsley Quarry and once we were in its extensive area compass work was needed to get out. We emerged onto a lane bounded by expensive property conversions, lots of Range Rovers – that sort of place.

The next stile was impossible to negotiate, guarded by brambles and sloes, [reported to the authorities] but fortunately a gate took us into the same field to link up with a path that kept coming to more awkward overgrown stiles, but we slowly made progress to emerge probably on the wrong drive way at Loud Carr Side. All along this stretch we had wonderful views of the Bowland Fells to the north. Their road led us to Gibbon Bridge over the Loud. A substantial stile gave access to the river bank  here populated with Himalayan Balsam and more worryingly Japanese Knotweed, The river is small and flows along at a snail’s pace. Pushing on through the vegetation we made progress down stream, despite acrobatic stiles, to the stepping-stones  across the river. A few days ago there would have been little water here after the drought but we have had a lot of rain since and our crossing was a little tricky as some of the stones were submerged. A gentler stretch through fields and we emerged at Loud Mythom Bridge. What are these  iridescent beetles ‘feeding’ on dock leaves?  We walked on to Doeford Bridge where the Loud joins the much wider Hodder. A fisherman was casting in the Hodder below, a popular fishing river. We ate lunch at the bridge and watched many cyclists coming through from  the Trough of Bowland, and also speeding motorists having close shaves on the bends.

The Loud joining the Hodder just above Doeford Bridge.

We had considered continuing across the stepping-stones at  Stakes Farm but walkers coming in the opposite direction confirmed that they were impossible with missing stones and high water which is a regular problem. So we backtracked up the lane and onto a track heading for Greenlands, as we walked through the farmyard a, fortunately chained, dog leapt out of its kennel narrowly missing JD. That raised our heart rates.  More poor tracks and awkward stiles eventually brought us back to Gibbon Bridge. Cars were arriving for a wedding reception at the hotel. We didn’t have the heart to find the footpath through their grounds and spent the next half-hour or so lost in the fields which host the annual Chipping Steam Fair every May. Today turned out to be the Chipping Show held in fields on the edge of the village and we could hear loudspeaker announcements in the distance. The day was perfect for the show. From this side of the Loud we now had uninterrupted views south to Longridge Fell. A complicated series of fields, all thankfully well signed, took us from Pale Farm to the road and back over the Loud Lower Bridge to our car. We had achieved our idea of following the Loud but had found the walking difficult, in my condition, with overgrown paths and broken or blocked stiles.

*****

BOWLAND AT ITS BEST.

Looking up past Dunsop Bridge into the heart of Bowland.

14th June 2018. UK weather: Storm Hector batters Britain with winds of up to 100mph.

The above headlines in today’s papers were not encouraging but delving a little deeper and being three brave fellows we arranged a walk. We being ‘the rock man’, JD and myself. The idea was to stay low and leave late morning to avoid the worst of the storm. Leaving late was easily accomplished as the rock man was late anyhow. We parked up near Leagram Estate above Chipping avoiding any overhanging suspect trees. There was no sign of the wind abating.

Entering a windy Leagram Park.

Country lanes were used to weave through the fields bordering the fells. More and more barns have been converted into desirable residences and expensive 4×4’s kept pushing us into the hedgerows. The public road to the remote Burnslack was reached and followed before cutting off on the rougher track across the base of the fells. This is open country and felt wild today with the wind. Lickhurst was the next farm complex with new developments. The tenant, who was one of the last remaining true farmers, apparently has recently died. I had a long conversation with him when I last passed when he was telling me of his plans for retirement, sad news.

Lickhurst Farm.

Moving on we crossed the footbridge and headed up onto limestone pastures. These looked very dry as we’ve had virtually no rain for six weeks. The track down to Dinkling Green was found. JD and I had recollections of vicious dogs chained up here which would suddenly jump out as you passed through the farmyard. None today as the farmsteads have been gentrified. A nice stretch alongside a brook and we arrived at Higher Fence Wood, the farm with all those wooden hen houses.The rooster cockerel was proudly parading in front of his hareem. Free range eggs were advertised for £1.50 a dozen but unfortunately the cupboard was bare.

We were now in limestone country and relying on the rockman’s expert knowledge. There were limestone outcrops and signs of quarrying everywhere. We lunched under a limestone rockface of a long abandoned quarry. There were signs of chalk on the rock from modern-day boulderers.

Our lunch spot.

By now the sun was getting a little stronger but the wind was still bitterly cold. Tracks took us to New Laund Farm above the Inn at Whitewell which can be reached across the Hodder on stepping stones. Today however we stayed high and went into secretive mode for a little trespassing into the woods to locate Fairy Holes Caves. Once found we explored using our phone torches which proved far better than the old flashlight. I saw crinoid fossils which I had missed on previous occasions. The location is recognised as a Bronze Age burial site, probably dating to around 1800 BC.

The Inn at Whitewell.

Forbidden land.

 

We scrambled out onto the public right of way to Fair Oak , this gives some of the best views down into the Hodder Valley in both directions as it crosses a small col. See title picture for view NE. and below for River Hodder and SE to Longridge Fell.

‘Scrambling out’

From here on we wandered past old farmsteads all in a state of modern repair, Delightful residences but all so remote from anywhere. The old bridleway down from Greystoneley was followed over the ford.

Towards the end of the walk I wanted to explore a footpath I’d never used and it turned out perfect. From an old limekiln and quarry we went cross-country, unfortunately missing a crucial footbridge, back into the Leagram Estate. Delightful walking under the Fairsnape Fells with views across to Longridge Fell. The wind was still blowing strong when we reached the car but had detracted little from a grand day out.

My ‘new path’

Fairsnape Fells.

Longridge Fell.

*****

A SOUTHERN CIRCUIT ON LONGRIDGE FELL.


I’ve been up Longridge Fell three times this week, all from different directions. This lack of originality is partially based on my reluctance to drive far, partly on the weather [torrential rain on alternate days put boggy Fairsnape out of the question] and mainly on my slow re-acquaintance with hilly country. Anyhow it is a great little fell, the most southerly named fell in the UK with the easy to remember 350m height.

Today, Thursday 5th April, was fantastic, you couldn’t have wished for a better Spring like day. Blue skies, no wind and warmish sun [that’s that round yellow thing in the sky]. Of course the paths were still muddy and slippy but that’s par for the course at this time of year in Lancashire. A few groups were out on longer rambles and the dog strollers were making the best of the day.

I parked at Higher Hodder Bridge and  tackled the steep Birdy Brow road head on, One gains height quickly and just past Kemple End the forest track leaves the road zigzagging into the trees. I was already sweating as the morning warmed up. The forest track on a day like this reminded me of walking through Southern Spain on the GR 7 where there is much forest. I was going to say ‘wish I was there now’ but on a day like this you can’t  beat Lancashire. A hidden little path through the trees brings one out at a lovely open viewpoint with the Bowland Fells full on, the frosty Yorkshire peaks off to the East and Chipping Vale at your feet,

Higher on the fell I came across forest workers hand planting thousands of spruce saplings in rough ground that had been felled a couple of years ago. These are disease resistant ones and I will watch their growth over coming years.

Knowing that the track was blocked ahead with fallen trees I again took to smaller paths through the trees some of which are old Scots Pines, an enchanting place. I’ve been known to bivy in this secret place with the bonus of deer wandering past in the night. Further on is the ‘wall path’ leading towards the summit.  Years ago this path was hardly visible but has become more used and hence more boggy, most of the wall that ran alongside it has been now used as infill for the path.

Once out in the open the white trig point was clearly seen ahead with more stunning views of Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills. If I had kept walking down the ridge I would have been home in an hour but I had a circuit to complete so headed south on forest roads, with Pendle Hill dominant ahead above the Ribble Valley, to come out at the road above Crowshaw Quarry where I had a bite to eat in the sunshine.

The bridle way down past Green Gore to Hurst Green is very familiar but I realised I nearly always walk it in the opposite direction. One of my favourite places is Dean Brook as it descends off the fell and through old mill placements at Hurst Green. The bridge there is a great launching pad for poo sticks.

I came out at the Almshouses which somehow were brought down from Kemple End. The Bayley Arms pub seems to be closed so I carried straight across on Smithy Lane through muddy fields and into the grounds of Stoneyhurst College.

I took the private road to Hodder Court where I picked up the popular footpath alongside the Hodder river. This is a roller coaster of a path in the trees above the river as I headed back to  Higher Hodder Bridge. A delight with the fast flowing Hodder below, emerging Wild Garlic under my feet and expectant bird song in the air.

That was 5 hours of my life well spent.

*****

 

STOCKS RESERVOIR – THE LONG WAY ROUND.

 

There is a ‘new’ circular walk around Stocks Reservoir, promoted by United Utilities, from the Gisburn Forest car park and judging from the amount of people seen today very popular. I came across it on a walk from Slaidburn. New paths have been created giving a varied route with fantastic views and close to the water wildlife viewing hides are available. Stocks was constructed in the 1920/30s by the Fylde Water Board by flooding the upper Hodder valley, the surrounding farmland and the hamlet of Stocks-in-Bowland. 500 men worked there and a narrow gauge railway was built to transport materials. According to the information boards numerous attractive houses were lost but the church was rebuilt above the water. For more fascinating reservoir facts click here. 

I always enjoy the Roman road from Cow Ark to Newton, I drive this way to reach the Slaidburn area and as a scenic route to Yorkshire. As you crest the hill the Bowland Fells are prominent to the west and straight ahead is unmistakable Ingleborough, if you are lucky and the day clear. Today I was debating a walk up Croasdale to Bullstones but I knew I would be tempted onto the boulders which wouldn’t be good for my shoulder so I opted for a walk up to Stocks reservoir.

Slaidburn is an interesting old village to wander round. Most of the property has been owned by one family for over 200 years and little has changed, narrow streets, hand-loom weavers’ cottages, an historic pub, village shop, YHA, war memorial and the River Hodder. I must admit to have not visited the C15th church on the outskirts.

This morning I used the village car park and adjacent cafe as my starting point and walked out on a lane heading to Bentham which seemed very popular with cyclists who have a lot of climbing ahead. A style leads into a field and a climb over a hill which you realise is Limestone, there are a lot of Reef Knolls in the area. A string of Dale’s like meadows parallel the Croasdale Brook, each having a stone barn in various states of repair. These reminded me of the phrase “were you born in a barn?” that was constantly directed at me as a child for leaving doors open.

The farmer from Croasdale was proud of his new concrete access road as he drove around on his buggy with trusted sheepdog.

Climbing out of the valley the views across Bowland improved with every step. Newly sheered sheep were out in the fields creating a loud communal baaaa. The short stretch of road walking was virtually traffic free and there seemed to be a ditch and dike running alongside, no idea of its origin. Up on Merrybent Hill Ingleborough raised its head again and the vast extent of Gisburn Forest was spread out below.

Bowland Fells.

Ingleborough.

Gisburn Forest.

A line of Alder Trees followed a stream downhill off the road and this is where I met up with the Stocks Circular walk and a stream of people. Flags had been laid over a boggy stretch and where last time I had precariously crossed the Hodder on stepping stones there was a new [2008] footbridge. Shamefully the stepping stones seemed to have disappeared.

Onwards and upwards past the deserted New House with its outside well. The lane leading down from here gave views of Stocks Reservoir with Totridge Fell in the background. All to soon I was into the forest but the path has been improved and winds its way nicely through mixed woodland.

Alongside the start of the water I went into one of the hides, opening up the flaps I had a perfect view of the Hodder snaking into the lake; unfortunately without binoculars I struggled to identify most of the birdlife except for the numerous Cormorants. Nonetheless it was a good place to eat my lunch.

Continuing on I reached the carpark with all the information boards and more people doing the circuit. The causeway was crossed, on the water little boats used by fishermen seemed to be having a hard time in the brisk wind. In the past I’ve walked on the road past the re-sited church but now a path winds off through the trees to keep closer to the reservoir. The next mile on open ground above the water gave magnificent views across the reservoir with the Chipping Fells ahead and behind to the forest. The signed walk brought me up close to the damn wall with the splendid waterboard house above. Not wanting to cross the damn I found a bit of a path upwards to join the track down to Hammerton Hall, a commanding three gabled Elizabethan house. After Holmehead Bridge crossing the Hodder fields headed towards Slaidburn. I was reminded of a previous trip down the Hodder when not checking the map we forded the Croasdale Brook in a direct line under the view of the farmer who said we were on private land and sent us, humiliated, back across the river. Today I found the correct path to the right to reach the bridge and road back into the village.

Sorry this has been a long-winded blow by blow account of today’s walk but there was so much of interest. I have every intention of returning soon, with binoculars, to walk that shorter signed Stocks circular.

 

CYCLING THROUGH ‘THE TROUGH’

It had to be done. This is the classic ride from the Preston area. After recent trips on my bike, slowly building up strength, I knew that the next challenge was to cycle through The Trough of Bowland. Had not done this for 20 years, too busy climbing and walking. Set of today at lunchtime.The fells which I had to circumvent had ominous black clouds above them as I left Longridge. Was soon into Garstang and on to Scorton where the traditional stop at The Priory for coffee and cake was duly taken.  Got chatting to a fellow cyclist [I have put myself into that bracket now] Turned out he was staying in Longridge for a couple of days and had escaped the family to ride today. I was glad of the cake as I followed twisting undulating lanes towards the fells.

Heading towards Marshaw.

                                           Heading towards Marshaw.

One particularly steep little hill climb caught me out and had me standing on the pedals. Once on the Trough road at Marshaw I just had to keep going at a steady pace and I was at the summit before I knew it. Set at 968ft is the Grey Stone of Trough marking the pre1974 boundary between Lancashire and West Riding of Yorkshire.

The Grey Stone Of Trough.

                                   The Grey Stone Of Trough.

Wonderful scenery abounds up here in the Bowland Fells and today the conditions were perfect, clear warm and sunny and most important – no wind.  Great swooping descent to Dunsop BridgeSAM_5214 Onwards by the Hodder to Whitewell, with it’s celebrated Inn.

The River Hodder.

The River Hodder.

I enjoyed the trip down the valley to Chipping and the short stretch back to Longridge in the late afternoon sunshine.

Feeling rather smug tonight with my modest achievement and dreaming up longer and longer cycling days.  LE to JOG?  Hang about – I’d better try 50 miles tomorrow first!

ZCapture.JPGtrough

BOWLAND HISTORIC RAMBLE AND RANT.

Sunny Wednesday was a day made for the hills. After several dull and damp days recently, often spent laboriously at a climbing wall, it was good to be driving out to Bowland. I parked in the small village of Dunsop Bridge, which has been designated as at the centre of the Great Britain. The 100,000th BT phone box, on the green, proclaims this. Parking is now pay and display but £1 for 4hours didn’t seem extortionist, and Ribble Valley Borough Council seem to be keeping the place tidy. I do however feel these pay and display machines seem out of place in countryside car parks. They are everywhere now and I’m not sure what one does if needing an overnight stay for an extended camping trip.

 

The walk I set off on today is partly one of the sections of my Longridge Skyline Walk, see previous posts, leading out of the Hodder Valley over the little trodden Kitcham Hill on Birkett Fell..

Crossing the Hodder by a bridge brings you to the houses of Thorneyholme opposite where the river Dunsop joins the Hodder. A delightful stroll south by the river soon had me in good spirits with clear views over to Totridge Fell and Mellor Knoll. Despite the ground frost the ground was still fairly boggy.

Totridge Fell and Mellor Knoll across the Hodder.

Totridge Fell and Mellor Knoll across the Hodder.

Soon I was climbing alongside a beck in Fielding Clough above Burholme, despite the low air temperature I was soon sweating in the sunshine. The rough climb in heather, up alongside the wall, onto Kitcham Hill [283m] made things worse and I was glad of a break at the top to admire the 360degree views and get my breath back. The top is marked with a few stones near a stunted lone pine. I always enjoy time spent up here enjoying the peace and wandering in the pine and beech trees surrounding the summit. Today a pair of buzzards were crying and circling above me. Ingleborough and Penyghent were just visible in the haze to the north.

From the hill top I went south on rough ground, this whole area is access land created under the 2000 CRoW act, see the latest OS maps for areas covered. As one reaches the plantation to the south the access land finishes 200m before a public right of way/footpath. This is one of the annoying anomalies of some areas of access land – you end up trespassing to get out of them! Not that worries me as I end up climbing walls to reach the footpath into the plantation. Already, though, because of this problem I feel a little annoyed. Will write to Ribble Valley about it.

Looking back to Kitcham Hill.

 Once onto the public footpath things get worse, there have been a lot of trees blown down, presumably this last winter, making the path almost impossible to follow by most people. My climbing skills were needed to force a way through. Another letter to the Ribble Valley.

Jungle

Jungle

Once through, at great risk to my appendages, there is a lovely stretch across open hillside with views to the north. I was now approaching Crimpton Farm and was confronted with signs suggesting a rather lengthy, muddy, diversion around the premises but in small print stating that the right of way still existed onto the lane through the ‘farm’. Now I knew this property was of historic and architectural interest and used the right of way to look at it.      After the reformation a wooden image of Our Lady Of White Well was brought to the isolated Crimpton for safety. Hence the farm was well known to Roman Catholics as ‘Our Lady Of The Fells’. Apparently there is also a sulphur spa here with miraculous healing powers so the locality has historic importance. As well the building is grade 2 listed with interesting seven hand loom weaving windows.  I ask why a diversion is being suggested, apparently with official approval, away from this important house. A third letter to Ribble Valley!!

  I would ask that anyone else following this public right of way ignores any suggestion of diversion and writes to the authorities in protest. John Dixon in his excellent Aussteiger Guide book to Bowland is of the same persuasion. Such was my anguish that I forgot to photo the interesting house and the parked up obligatory Range Rover! While on my high horse how did they get planning permission for the ‘porch’  extension on  a GRADE 2 LISTED BUILDING.  I have little faith in the planning authorities.

Crimpton John Dixon

Crimpton        John Dixon

Progressing onto the old Roman road  across Marl Hill I took off to the left on a wild path down to Birkett Farm and down to Giddy Bridge over the brook. What was the purpose of the stone projections on either side below the bridge?

Giddy Bridge

Giddy Bridge

 Now I  was able to follow a well signed concessionary path through the grounds of Knowlmere Manor  [a contrast to the restrictions at Crimpton].  Try counting the chimneys on the manor….

Knowlmere manor

Knowlmere Manor

Onwards in the sunshine brought me above the Hodder River back to Thorneyholme where I came across a chain saw massacarer [artist]  working on a tree stump to create a Rodin masterpiece. A lengthy chat ensured about art, recession, medicine and the state of the world. This bloke is very talented.

Masterpiece in the making.

Masterpiece in the making.

Back through the tall Wellington Pine avenue  gets me to the car within the 4hour, £1, fee!!  It shouldn’t have to be like this.  A day of stunning scenery and spring weather to hopefully come. But there  are some sour tastes left regarding access. I’ll get over it.

LONGRIDGE SKYLINE WALK.

Today was cold but sunny so there was no excuse not to get out in the countryside. All the snow from last weekend had disappeared, though this morning’s frost had firmed up the fields.

There have been some recent footpath diversions north of Longridge and these were affecting a route of mine, The Longridge Skyline Walk. I therefore took the opportunity to walk some of these paths to update my route description.

Parlick with Fairsnape brooding in the background.
      Parlick with Fairsnape brooding in the background.
Having brought my route description up to date I felt it was time to re-publicise this excellent route. I would love to see one of you keen fell walkers complete the circuit in a day! Here is my original, rather lengthy article………
                             LONGRIDGE SKYLINE WALK.
 Standing anywhere in the Loud Valley [The Vale of Chipping] north of Longridge one is aware of the beautiful surrounding scenery. Out to the west is space towards the coast but the remaining skyline consists of hills. Starting in the northwest is the well known Beacon Fell, and going clockwise around the horizon are Parlick, Fairsnape, Totridge, Birkett, Waddington and Longridge Fells. You will notice that these hills are all named using the northern word Fell, it is an interesting fact that Longridge Fell is the most southerly named fell in Britain.
Skyline and horseshoe walks have a fascination and draw for fell walkers, think of the many well known examples in our mountainous regions. They are usually fairly obvious in conception and provide a ready made visual and physical challenge. So it was for me, for many years living within sight of this round, and I have taken up its challenge on several occasions in the past, from the 70’s onwards. I soon realised the beauty, variety, relative isolation and rewarding views this walk provides.
However there was always a problem with my rounds, I was often trespassing!  Large tracts of the moorland areas in the east were private, often with shooting interests, with limited rights of way. So the walk was for private consumption only, but always very satisfying allowing one  knowledge of these ’hidden secrets’ of our northern hills.
However times change and with the implementation of the CRoW act nearly all the walk was either on Public Rights of Way or the newly created Access Areas. With the publication of O.S.maps showing the newly opened areas I was able to revisit more freely some areas of the walk and realised that a challenging circuit was now more feasible in design and description, if still no easier in physical execution.
Thus the 60Km / 37.5miles Longridge Skyline Walk  [LSW] was reborn.
Much of the Forest of Bowland is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and rightly so. Hence many areas are well known to walkers and country lovers alike, but you will find following this round many new corners to be enthralled by and whole areas of rough fell rarely walked in the last few decades. When were you last on Kitcham Hill or Waddington Fell?
Bowland’s diverse landscape – heather moorland, blanket bogs, wooded valleys and lowland farms – make not only for interesting walking but also provide a rich habitat for flora and fauna. The area is nationally renowned for its upland birds, so providing one with an opportunity of sighting many species on the walk. Red Grouse, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew, Short Eared Owl, Ring Ouzel, Redshank, Merlin, Peregrine, Kestrel and the Hen Harrier. The latter has become the symbol of The Forest of Bowland. Take a small pair of binoculars.
By the nature of the ground to be covered, this walk should not be undertaken lightly, access land in the AONB offers some of the roughest and most remote walking in Lancashire. A sound experience of rough fell walking and the relevant navigational  skills are needed. Several miles are trackless and heavy going in the peat bogs. These areas are particularly difficult in the wetter months and are possibly best avoided at those times, not only for your progress but to lessen damage to the fragile terrain. Clear weather is a must really to help with navigation and to enable you to fully enjoy the outstanding views that the walk provides. The access areas may have seasonal restrictions which will be posted locally or found in advance from the usual sources. [Try Lancashire County Council] It would not be possible to take dogs on the whole route.
If the walk is started in Longridge the village of Dunsop Bridge makes a good halfway stopover if split into two days. There are limited bus services in the rural areas but Dunsop  Bridge is serviced from Clitheroe. Other smaller stages  over three or four days can be planned with the limited B&B accommodation in the area.  Completing the walk within a day would be a severe challenge for the fittest of walkers and maybe not the best way to appreciate the scenery. There are a few refreshment stops notably Beacon Fell Visitor Centre, Dunsop Bridge Café/PO, Bashall Barn and of course Longridge itself.LSW map
Longridge — Beacon Fell.  10km / 6m
Starting from the Millennium Cross in Longridge one is soon out into the countryside with early views of the skyline task ahead. After a short stretch of road walking the route goes onto a series of pleasant paths through farming land, both arable and stock. The agricultural changes in recent years are evident with the loss of hedges, expensive barn conversions, diversification with fishing lakes and a new golf course. As the ground rises to Beacon Fell views open up across the Fylde. Beacon Fell was opened in 1970 as one of Lancashire’s first Country Parks and has proved very popular with its easy access and good tracks suitable for all. The information centre is worth a visit as you pass on the way to the summit [266m] with its viewfinder. This summit is the first of the day and hopefully the weather will be clear for the extensive views.
Beacon Fell — Fairsnape Fell.  7km / 4.5m
Northwards the land now begins to change to rougher pastures approaching the higher fells, again the paths are clear and fairly well used. A wonderful area in spring for the sound and sight of Lapwings. Soon the bulk of Parlick is in front of you, but a winding old peat-sledge track takes you up the quieter side of the fell. The area is popular for gliding, parapenting and model planes so there is usually something in the sky to keep you distracted on the climb. Once at the top the fells stretch out before you and a good walking surface, enjoy it while you can, enables an easy section up to Fairsnape Fell with its shelters and trig point [510m] although the true summit [520m] is further on to the northeast.
Fairsnape Fell — Dunsop Bridge.  10.5km / 6.5m
The enjoyment of the next couple of hours along the ridge to Totridge Fell [496m] will depend on recent rainfall. Although there is a fence to guide you most of the way do not underestimate the difficulty underfoot and detours around the worst peat bogs are unavoidable. On a day of good visibility this is an exhilarating stretch with views to the Lakeland Hills, the vast uninhabited area of desolate fells to the north, the Three Peaks area, Pendle and the Lancastrian Fells to the south. The last legs of this walk over Waddington and Longridge Fells become clear. At the end of the ridge the beauty of the Hodder below you can be appreciated before the steep descent into the valley. The Trough of Bowland road can be busy at weekends but fields lead past a pheasant breeding farm to follow the River Dunsop into the village by its bridge. This a popular destination and after the solitude of the fells the number of trippers can come as quite a surprise, but the ice cream is great!
Don’t forget to look at the unique telephone box celebrating being at the centre of Great Britain.
Dunsop Bridge — Waddington Fell.  9.5km / 6m
This section of the walk covers new ground for most people and being trackless in parts will feel longer than the map suggests. It starts pleasantly along by the idyllic Hodder and then climbs to the exquisite wind blown, untrodden and heather clad top of Kitcham Hill [283m] From here rough moors are crossed to emerge through trees at the historic farm of Crimpton [Our Lady of the Fells] More rough trackless ground is crossed over Marl Hill [311m] heading for the mast [if you can see it!] on Waddington Fell. At one point navigation is helped by an old ditch once serving as a deer boundary for the important Browsholme Estate. Reaching the summit of Waddington Fell [395m] is a relief and most of the harder work is behind you. Once again you have stunning views from an unusual angle particularly good westwards down the length of the valley you have navigating round.
Waddington Fell — Higher Hodder Bridge.  9.5km / 6m
Downhill all the way! From the trig point you follow the obvious ridge southwards by the wall and continue down the mapped access area until it stops 0.5km short of the next Public Right of Way. Having overcome this problem field paths lead to the delightful Talbot Bridge, on past an old packhorse bridge and close to the old Bashall Hall. Soon you will be enjoying refreshments in Bashall Barn, the type of farm diversity I appreciate. More field paths bring you to The Higher Hodder Bridge.
Higher Hodder Bridge — Longridge Fell.  5.5km / 3.5m
A short stretch by the River Hodder and then you climb up to Kemple End a well known viewpoint over the Ribble Valley and Pendle. Now for a contrast you enter the sometimes gloomy forest leading uphill. Clearings are reached overlooking the Loud and Hodder valleys for relief until eventually you reach the final top of Longridge Fell [350m]. From the trig point enjoy the views northwards of patchwork fields below and the background of the route you have followed.
Longridge Fell — Longridge.  8km / 5m
The long descent to complete the round. If you have been blessed with good weather you will be able see Snowdonia ahead and pick out the Isle of Man Hills across Morecambe Bay with a background of the setting sun. Or then again it may be raining! Following the very edge of the fell you will come to the road at Jeffrey Hill car park. Here there are interesting  information boards about the area. There is the suggestion that the river Ribble may have reached the sea through the vale of Chipping at one time, being diverted by glacial deposits to it’s present more circuitous route to the south of Longridge Fell. The road has to be followed past the golf course for a couple of kilometres until you can take field paths towards Longridge. Near the end join the route of the old railway line which took stone from the extensive quarries to supply many Lancashire cities. Soon you are back at the Millennium Cross and maybe enjoying a pint in the Townley Arms reflecting on the last 60km!
Contact me if you would like detailed directions.

Tolkien Country, Crosses, Stoneyhurst and the Hodder.

…..a beautiful day starts with a sharp frost, but bright and sunny again!

To keep this post topical I had been listening to the radio about a new film on release, The Hobbit, which is sure to be a big success after The Lord of the Rings. The premier was in New Zealand where I believe some of the locations were filmed. However it is well known that  J R R Tolkien,the author, spent many days walking around the Hurst Green countryside, whilst his son was studying at Stonyhurst College. The area was said to have given him inspiration for the fantasies of Lord of the Rings.

So after lunch, I don’t know what happens to the mornings!, I set off to drive up to Kemple End on Longridge Fell to take in some of the Tolkien rambles. The road up Longridge Fell had been quite icy and tricky even after noon.

Ground frost

Parked up at Kemple End [SD 688 404] and was rewarded with views across the still misty Ribble Valley towards Pendle and Boulsworth Hill.

Distant Boulsworth Hill

Distant  Boulsworth Hill

Couldn’t resist a look into the quarry where there is some good climbing. A couple of Roe Deer ran off when I descended into their territory. The rock faces were dry as they always seem to be, sheltered from any prevailing weather. This quarry had provided stone for the village of Hurst Green and Stoneyhurst College.

I realised that photography today would be difficult with the low sun. One was either shooting into the sun or having your long shadow cast across the picture.

Birdy Prow Kemple End

Birdy Prow   Kemple End

Walking through the delightful houses, that comprise the small settlement of Kemple End, I picked up a sunken track across the hillside. This was probably some constructed rail or sledge way to transport stone from the quarry down the hill.  Dropping down lanes I came into the grounds of Stoneyhurst College which one is able to traverse on public rights of way. Putting aside thoughts of the privileged classes one cannot but admire the grandeur of the place. Building started in 1523 for the Shireburn family and from 1794 the Jesuits ran it as a college. Today it is a renowned, and no doubt a very expensive, RC boarding school. Girls as well as boys now attend. The college is very proud of some of its past pupils including a certain Arthur Conan Doyle, actor Charles Laughton and Mark Thomson ex director general of the BBC.

Stoneyhurst Chapel

Stoneyhurst Chapel

Stoneyhurst College

Stoneyhurst College

Moving on through the grounds I dropped down through fields to arrive at the Lower Hodder road bridge which is sited next to the ancient, arched, packhorse bridge over the River Hodder. This is better known as Cromwell’s Bridge as it is thought that Cromwell’s parliamentary army crossed it before defeating the King’s men at the Battle of Preston in 1648. Sorry but the picture below is poor….Kemple,Stonyhurst,Hodder 029Now I embarked on the delightful  path leading up river to the Higher Hodder bridge. The river was quite low as we had not had rain for a few days. Because there are few leaves left on the trees it was easier to spot the bird life. Robins, Wrens, Blackbirds, flocks of Blue and Long-tailed Tits, a flash of a Kingfisher, a nod of a Dipper and lots of Herons poising patiently above the cold waters.Kemple,Stonyhurst,Hodder 040

The path passed  first the base of a damaged cross and then an intact relatively modern cross. These must be connected in some way to the college but I’ve been unable to discover their history. Any ideas?

Kemple,Stonyhurst,Hodder 035The path through the woods next to the River Hodder is popular and well maintained with steps and good footbridges over side steams. Whenever I use these Lancashire County Council bridges I have to say a quick ‘hello’ to a deceased, dear, friend who worked in the bridge department of the council. He much preferred the challenge of a humble footbridge project in the countryside to being in his office.

Lancs County Council Footbridge.

Lancs County Council Footbridge. Thanks!

Soon I was approaching Higher Hodder Bridge and the path doubles back and starts to climb in zigzags up the hillside to Kemple End. Pausing for breath gave me chance to survey the scene over the Ribble Valley towards Waddington Fell and Pendle – the changing light from the low sun was magical. This route up from the river is part of my Longridge Skyline Way [from now on LSW] which I mentioned whilst crossing Beacon Fell.

Pendle in Evening Sun from Kemple End

Pendle in Evening Sun from near Kemple End

As there was plenty of light left I crossed over the wall by the road at Kemple End to investigate a nearby cross a couple of hundred yards away in the field. This is the so called  Paulinus Cross dating from the 7th century when St. Paulinus, Bishop of York, was supposed to have preached here on his mission [1619-1633] to convert us heathen Lancastrians  to Christianity. It is a rather strange looking cross!

Paulinus Cross

Paulinus Cross

Quite a long post today, but for a short afternoon walk there was a lot to be included.

Nearby on a lane is another cross dating from 1934 with the haunting inscription – WATCH FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY, NOR THE HOUR.Kemple,Stonyhurst,Hodder 061

I’ll leave you with that thought.