Tag Archives: Walking.

LECK – a day out with Tilley.

Things don’t always work out as planned, today’s walk was one of those.

In the past I have often explored Leck Beck from the village up to Ease Gill and remember the dramatic scenery particularly in Ease Gill Kirk. We would often finish the day with some simple cave exploration on the fell, Short Drop and Lost Johns Caves stand out in my memory. So when the Pieman and his little brother Will [all is relative] suggested a revisit I was keen to join them. Out came Wainwright’s Limestone book with the relative chapter, maybe we could also throw in an ascent of Gragareth.

The day started well as I parked up next to the church and donated them a pound , cheaper than those car parks in the Lakes. We met up promptly but there was an unexpected addition to the team – Tilley the spaniel, Will’s beloved dog. This didn’t seem a problem as she was on a lead and appeared docile enough. Off we went catching up on events in our separate lives and reveling in the lovely weather. Tilley trotted alongside. Only when we into more open country did I realise that Tilley could run Will a merry dance, despite being on one of those retractable leads when she decided to explore off route Will seemed to have to run after her.  Hilarious.

The valley was longer and more beautiful than we remembered. Certainly longer for Will dragged aside by Tilley. By the time we reached the interesting Ease Gill Kirk my plan to drop into it to explore further didn’t resonate with the brothers plus dog and they left me to it. Feeling rather abandoned my visit was only cursory and I didn’t see what I wanted. The whole place seemed overgrown and unreconisable, I’ll have to return without any pressure.

Reunited for lunch we discussed the way on, the dog team won and we climbed up the hillside, now resplendent in purple heather, towards the road near Leck Fell House. This must be one of the loneliest places in Lancashire, yes we are still in an outpost of Lancashire despite the ‘dales’ feel to the area. I didn’t have the heart to inform the other two they were not in their beloved Yorkshire, they might have panicked. Potholes were all now fenced off and I didn’t have the time to find my favourite, Short Drop Cave. I used to enjoy dropping into it, it was only a short drop once you knew it, and going down the water worn passage was easy for some distance.  Apparently the dog was tired so our ascent of Gragareth was dismissed. At least we made a cursory exploration of the area of Lost Johns Cave, a stream entrance was obvious but today there was too much water  and too little enthusiasm for further probing.

Back on the road it was a delightful walk back down to Leck with Tilley showing no further signs of fatigue lead the way. The scenery hereabouts triumphed over my frustrations as we arrived back early at the car.

I would like to make it clear I have no malice towards the lovely Tilley, as they say it’s not the dog’s fault  it’s the owner’s.

A map of where we did and didn’t go…

LEAFY SURREY.

 

An interesting weekend.

For the last 20 or so years Mel, a friend from school days, and I have completed an annual ‘pub to pub’ walking week on various long distance trails. We walked a stretch of The Thames Path last year and had hoped to continue this year but he has been in ill health so we didn’t make it. Instead to keep in touch I arranged to travel down to Woking for a weekend in Surrey, it turned out to be quite a busy few days.

First we walked a pleasant flat mile along the canal into Woking centre, rehabilitation exercise for him. This is the Basingstoke Canal which originally linked Basingstoke with the River Wey navigation and hence the Thames and London. Agriculture, coal and timber were transported from the end of the 18th until the early 20th century. Now a few pleasure boats use it but the towpath provides a pedestrian and cycle route between communities. The wildlife is reputed to be outstanding, we saw a couple of ducks. Linking the Living Planet centre, UK office for the WWF, to the town centre is the pedestrian Bedser Bridge built to commemorate the famous local cricketing twins, Surrey regulars in the 50’s. On either side of the bridge are statues of the pair, Alec bowling to Eric, but where’s the ball – lots of people were keen to point it out high on the wall of the nearby Civic Offices.

Our reason for crossing the bridge was to get to the Lightbox a gallery and museum centre. After paying our respects to H. G. Wells the author of The War of the Worlds, the Martians had landed on nearby Horsell Common, we enjoyed a coffee in their cafe. Short of time we omitted the main galleries with still life and sculptures in favour of the history of Woking. This fascinating exhibition highlighted Woking Palace, The Shah Jahan Mosque – the first purpose built mosque in the UK, Brookwood Cemetery – famous for being the London overflow cemetery during the 19th Century, Brookwood Mental Hospital, the importance of the railway to Woking, local heroes and commerce eg. Kenwood Mixers. All brilliantly laid out and explained – a worthwhile hour.

I walked wide eyed through the bustling shopping centre with its stalls of international street food and sculptures. 

‘Surrey Hills’
Sarah Holmes.
A local artist Inspired by 2012 Summer Olympics.

It is unusual for an arcade to be so alive. the afternoon drifted on but the evening was spoiled by a poor quality Indian Restaurant.

A sunny start next day and we were pottering on his allotment, The whole site was colourful and productive with plenty of keen gardeners doing their thing. I did some token weeding whilst Mel sprayed his heavy crop of tomatoes and as a bonus I came away with some nice fresh vegetables.

Another place where Mel could do some gentle flat walking was in Savill Gardens and that’s where, after a coffee in their extensive and crowded cafe, we found ourselves. We were almost the only ones wandering in the garden itself, don’t know where the other thousand people from the car park and cafe/shop ventured. The main event here is the spring Rhododendrons but I found plenty to enthrall me today. They have a splendid wild flower display for starters and the summer bedding was a blaze of colour. On the way were infinite colours of Hydrangea macrophyllia.

Next stop was the Air Forces Memorial, a memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from air forces who were lost during WWII. Those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace. The name of each of these airmen and airwomen is engraved into the stone walls of the memorial, according to country and squadron. There is a complementary register with more individual details. This solemn and thought provoking site was opened in 1953 by Queen Elizabeth II and has an outstanding position above the Thames and Runnymede. Today there was scaffolding around the building and the upper terrace was blocked off but we still had views of Windsor Castle, the river Thames, a busy Heathrow and Wembley Stadium. An absorbing experience.

 

 

 

 

 

A late Buffet lunch was taken in the Runnymede Hotel on the river and what a buffet – everything you could think of was on offer, all first class quality – at a price. A lovely restaurant to relax in and watch the world go by on the Thames, the closest we got to walking the Thames Path this year.

It was in this vicinity that in June 1215 King John signed the Magna Carta giving political reform that has more or less survived the last 800 years. Hence a lot of tourists mingling along the riverside.

Home for a rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAIRY HOLES CAVE – WHITEWELL.

My stereotypical image of prehistoric life is of a family sat eating round a fire, animal bones scattered about, in the mouth of a cave. Hence this morning I found myself sat in a cave entrance high above the River Hodder near Whitewell living the dream. Fairy Holes Cave was excavated in 1946 and more recently in 2013 and has revealed cremated human bones, animal bones and pieces of pottery dated to the early Bronze Age. I had not been here for maybe 35 years when I had come to show my children the virtually unknown site. I remember it took some finding and was on private land – it remains so to this day. Once located there are three caves in a limestone outcrop, the middle one being by far the most extensive. A high entrance leads to a 25m long cave which you need to stoop along until at the furthest point a phreatic tube allows you to stand again. My head torch only allowed a poor view of the features but I was hoping some photos would show more. Having satisfied my speleological desires I clambered up the hillside and continued on my walk through this limestone area of Bowland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The early morning start north of Chipping saw me parked up at the end of a bridleway, now a surfaced lane, leading to a prominent Lime-kiln on Knott Hill, this was used to provide lime for the fields and mortar. Throughout this walk little outcrops and quarries of limestone are discovered.

The tracks onwards to Lickhurst Farm were waterlogged reflecting the amount of rain we’ve experienced this summer. Got chatting to the weathered farmer, whom I knew from a previous life, about these isolated Bowland Hill farms. He is due for retirement soon and is one of the last generation born and bread in the area. So many buildings, farms and barns have been upgraded for a new breed of incomers. The property next to him which seemed derelict a couple of years ago when I passed through now offers luxury accommodation. We speculated, with a smile,  on how they will manage cut off in the next harsh winter – no doubt helicopters will be involved and the TV will report on a survival rescue.

Lickhurst Farm.

The next stretch through more  wet fields passed farmsteads, Dinkling Green and Higher Fence Wood, amidst curious Limestone Knolls surrounded by the Bowland Fells:  a juxtaposition  of grit and lime. Hereabouts I had heard of caves but never found them, I wandered about in vain for awhile and was on the verge of giving up when I spotted a fenced enclosure, a give away really. There it was – an obvious cave opening in an outcrop. It turned out to be a few cave entrances to a system which looked as though it extended down into deeper passages – not for me alone today. Has this cave a name I wonder?

Down the lane and across fields towards a small quarried outcrop which I remember bouldering on years ago and which is now in the definitive Lancashire Bouldering Guide named appropriately Reef Knoll Crag. Anyhow passing quickly onwards I arrive in the farm yard of New Laund where workers are busy sorting sheep. Nobody notices my diversion to Fairy Holes…

 

… my continuation over New Laund Hill gives views back to ‘The Jaws of Bowland’ with Mellor Knoll, Burholme Bridge and the Whitendale Fells prominent. Ahead is the deep wooded valley enclosing The Hodder with the slopes of Longridge Fell behind. Some creative navigation through Fair Oak put me on the right track to Greystonely, another farmstead with converted buildings, the one whose residents I knew were out so no cups of tea! The bridleway over a ford quickly took me back to my car and I was home for lunch.

 

*****

 

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 Dales 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.

 

WHITBARROW SCAR – a day out with Poppy.

My diary records – 22 October 1988. Circuit of Whitbarrow, Chris and Matthew. Glorious day, sunny and warm. 6.5 miles. The weekend before I had been climbing on Castle Rock, Thirlmere, and the next I was off to Morocco, trecking in the Jebel Sahro. Those were the days.

Whitbarrow is a wooded limestone ridge towering above the Kent Estuary prominently seen from across the water on the road to Arnside and its crags driven under on the Barrow road. Wainwright gives it a chapter in his Outlying Fells book. I hadn’t been back since that day so I was pleased when Sir Hugh suggested it for today’s walk. I managed to persuade the Rockman and his dog to come along saying it would be a short trip as Sir Hugh is recovering from a broken elbow and is only just using his walking poles. The morning was dreadful with floods developing from the torrential downpour but by the time we met up at Mill Side there was a glimpse of something better. The keenest member of the party was Poppy the Airdale Terrier.

What followed was a switchback route through woods, steep slippery slopes, glorious open ridge walking and first class limestone scenery. The Rockman and I just followed the intrepid Sir Hugh who was obviously rejoicing in his new found freedom, at times we all had to be careful not to suffer any further injury. Some paths I think were known only to him. Poppy jogged along contentedly and took all the considerable obstacles in her stride, though she seemed happiest when we stopped for lunch at the highest point, Lords Seat,

We completed a figure of eight course which included a close encounter with the base of Chapel Head Scar, a bastion of limestone hosting difficult sports climbs. I had never climbed here and I never will when I realised the grades. However above the crag, reached by a precipitous path, is a beautiful meadow which seemed perfect for a summer bivi looking out to the west over the Kent Estuary. There are paths everywhere and the whole area is worthy of further exploration, I particularly would like to walk closer under the southern White Scar cliffs which we seemed to miss by being in the woods, hereabouts our legs and conversation were just beginning to drag for the last half mile.

 

THE BURNLEY WAY. Day Five.

Portsmouth to Towneley Park.

If you google Burnley to Portsmouth by bus you can imagine the result –  a ten hour journey to the south coast. Today’s more modest journey went like clockwork, leave home 9.45, park up at Towneley Park, 10.43 bus to Burnley bus station, 10.55 bus to Portsmouth [the one in Cliveger Gorge] and I was walking back into Lancashire by 11.30. I’m becoming a bit of Burnley Bus nerd. The weather today was perfect for a change.  A track climbed steeply from the main Calderdale road and headed into the hills, unusually it was unmarked. Roe deer ran before me and disappeared in the bracken, only their barking could be heard. This was steep climbing and I was soon looking back down into Calderdale and up to distant Stoodley Pike.

Once above a remote barn conversion a smaller path made a beeline for Heald Moor.  A rough track then led along the ridge to Thieveley Pike which was marked by an Ordnance Survey Pillar, 449m,  the highest point on the BW. This was the essence of open Pennine walking just me, skylarks and cotton grass.

Halfway along the ridge was a stone marker plaque who’s origin I cannot find, any ideas?

 

The extensive views were back to the Coal Clough Windfarm, down Calderdale to Stoodley Pike and The Peak District, Lancashire Moors, Hameldon Hill, distant Bowland and then Pendle and the Three Peaks and more of Yorkshire…

  A subsidiary ridge went over Dean Scout Rocks  which made a convenient lunch stop looking down into the Cliviger Gorge. A steep track descended through more sections of the Burnley Forest. Going under the railway I joined a section of the Pennine Bridleway, this turned out to be a delightful peaceful pastoral passage past old farms on what must be an ancient track. Ripe raspberries in the hedgerows were a bonus.

I was circling a hillside plantation named the Fireman’s Hat though I couldn’t see the resemblance, this has been made even worse by a communication tower which has somehow been allowed to be placed in this prominent natural position, money must have changed hands. I walked my way through Walk Mill and payed a quick visit to the Barcroft Hall a 17th century building. Interestingly there was of those old American caravans in the garden.

I then entered the extensive grounds of Towneley Hall and met the masses enjoying a sunny day, children and dogs included. There are paths and avenues everywhere. An ice-cream van by the bridge over the Calder River was doing a good trade and I couldn’t resist a cornet. A stroll  past the hall itself, note to visit in future, and then up a mature lime avenue to the gates on the main road and my car.

 

So I’d completed The Burnley Way, in more days than planned and in poor summer weather conditions but had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Met some lovely people along the way. Good varied walking with fascinating natural and industrial features along the way in an area not known for its walking. My photos don’t do it justice. It is well waymarked and the guide leaflets from Burnley Council clear and accurate. I had learnt a lot more of this area and I highly recommend.

 

THE BURNLEY WAY. Day Four.

Worsthorne to Portsmouth.

Rain all morning, once again the summer weather had conspired against me but rather than be inactive I opted for another short stage. My lunchtime arrival in Worsthorne coincided with a brightening but showers were still in the air, however I didn’t need waterproofs for the rest of the day. A flagged path across a field took me into Hurstwood described as a delightful Elizabethan village with attractive buildings – most seemed to be under renovation at present so I didn’t dally. A lane crossed the infant River Brun which I had come across a couple of days ago in Burnley centre. The now cobbled lane passed isolated farmhouses onto the moor, I pondered on the man-hours  needed to construct these old highways. Dropping down into Shebden Valley the reason for the lane became apparent – an extensive area of quarrying. Apparently this was for limestone extraction using hushes and what remained was piles of unwanted stone, the sheddings. I joined The Pennine Bridleway at the bridge but for some reason I was directed to a smaller path into the workings, this soon became indistinct and my wanderings were more and more erratic until I hit the Long Causeway road.  [Stay on the bridleway!] This straight road possibly dates back to the Romans and was used as a packhorse trail in the 18th century. It is characterised now by the Coal Clough Windfarm which it runs alongside, I remember this as one of the first in this area. From up here Pendle dominated the skyline to the north.  At a corner a farm track continues on the original line and I just followed this although the footpath supposedly takes to the field. Another isolated farm is passed and a lovely little building which would make a good bothy but more likely an expensive holiday cottage.

The path traverses above a wild clough and passes through plantations which are part of The Forest of Burnley a lottery funded scheme to create new forest around the area, I had noticed secveral others on these walks. Pathfinding through the new plantations is not always easy and waymarking could have better. I found myself on the top of a gritstone cliff, Pudsey Crag according to the map, a diversion was taken to view it from the valley. It looked worthy of climbing but is apparently out of bounds on private land. Deep wooded cloughs are entered as one progresses towards the Cliviger Gorge, occasional cottages appear out of nowhere – this is a secret place. Coming out of one of the cloughs towards Brown Birks farm I was confronted by a large brown bull right on the track, I was so overawed I didn’t even get a picture. Backtracking I picked up another footpath circumnavigating the field and with a bit of ingenuity safely avoided the bovine obstacle. I was now dropping into Cliviger Gorge and looking at the climb out on the otherside which will start my next stage. Looking down were the back to back terraces of mill villages Cornholme and Portsmouth. I jumped on the bus to take my me back to Burnley but found it pulled off the main road to visit some smaller villages and I surprisingly saw I was only a mile from my start so I was dropped off and walked into Worsthorne. Another day of discovery.