Tag Archives: Walking.

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…

*****

 

 

 

 

BIRKETT FELL, A BOWLAND JEWEL.

 I can see tree-covered Kitcham Hill on Birkett Fell from my kitchen window, not many people visit it so when Sir Hugh fancied a walk in Bowland I suggested it with a caveat of possible difficult terrain. As a SAS induction course the day went well  – gentle stroll, steady ascent, demanding ascent, open warfare, wire entanglements, jungle terrain, interrogation, trespassing, orienteering, bullfighting and more Jungle warfare. That’s a breeze compared to the Duke Of Edinburgh’s Silver aspirants out on the hill at the same time.

It wasn’t meant to be like this, I’d had a hard day previously on Middle Knoll up the road. Today’s hill was lower and there was only a bit of rough ground to reach its summit, after that it would be good footpaths.

The stroll by the Hodder was as pleasant as always.

The path alongside Fielding Clough was much drier than usual and then we branched off into tussocky reedy ground and steadily made our way up Birkett Fell and into the trees on Kitcham Hill, 283m.

I had previously made a cairn of a few stones at the summit on my LONGRIDGE SKYLINE WALK, LSW and I was pleased to find them. We admired the view down to the Fylde and the twisted pine and beech trees around the summit.

Open ground gave easier walking to the plantations but this was deceptive as there has been much wind damage that has caused problems accessing the woods.  One of my markers for the LSW was visible on a fallen tree. We had fun getting through wire fencing on the edge of the plantation, this is not a public footpath but soon we were on one going through the woods but it was not much better because of the fallen trees.

I remember vaguely some diversions around Crimpton Farm from previous visits and think I wrote to the appropriate authority to complain. Today the farmer was digging ditches and was keen to bemoan all his problems to us. We escaped and walked through his ‘forbidden’ farmyard wondering how planning permission had been given for an incongruous porch on a Grade 2 listed building below the mullioned loom windows. There is more history to this property –  after the reformation a wooden image of Our Lady Of White Well was brought to the isolated Crimpton farm for safety and hence the farm was well known to Roman Catholics as ‘Our Lady Of The Fells’.

The below picture shows Crimpton Farm with its unnecessarily long alternative route in red, we stuck to the ROW in blue.

 

We emerged using the existing ‘right of way’ onto the roller coaster of a road heading to Newton. Our views of the three peaks were obscured by low cloud. Lunch was taken in a farm yard with another encounter with an only mildly grumpy farmer.

Now on a FP what could go wrong – well we managed to lose it and spent half an hour staggering through reeds in difficult terrain. At the bottom of the field our correct path made an appearance and then disappeared again, however after we crossed the stream a better path headed towards the busy Birkett Farms. Before we reached them we came across a sheep who had pushed its head through a gate and become trapped by its horns. Some complex manoeuvres were needed to free it. In the same field was a large bull I was keen to avoid.

The day seemed to be ticking away by the time we joined the good lane to Knowlmere Manor with its many chimneys. Delightful countryside, made better in the sunnier pm, above the Hodder took us back to Dunsop Bridge where we had a final battle with vegetation.

I felt I had to treat Sir Hugh to a drink in the Puddleducks Cafe.

*****

THE BOWLAND MIDDLE KNOLL.

The Puddleducks cafe was just opening as we parked up in Dunsop Bridge so coffee was taken on their outside terrace. The plan today was to ascend Middle Knoll, a hill above Whitendale that neither JD or myself recollected visiting. On a recent walk here I was surprised to see how rocky the eastern slopes of Middle Knoll appeared and I was keen to investigate closer at hand a feature on the map marked Blue Scar.

After a gentle stroll up the waterboard access road we took the left fork leading to Brennand Farm but immediately branched off on a path through the heather on the slopes of Middle Knoll. As we gained height we herded a few cattle in front of us. At some point we mutually agreed to start the steep climb up pathless ground to the summit, for about 500ft we staggered laboriously upwards trying to to keep to the easiest ground. This was one of those convex hills where you never see the top, you just have to keep going. The summit at 395m was marked with a few stones. The best views were southwards towards the Fylde Plain.

We crossed a nearby wall and ate our lunches in its shelter. Descending we were soon on the top of Blue Scar a steep shaley feature, a few little rock buttresses stood out but it all appeared loose and dangerous.

Curiosity satisfied we descended to the col but failed to find the path coming up from Brennand and stumbled about in high bracken and reeds for some time. Heath Bedstraw was in profusion. Eventually we came steeply down to Whitendale Farm.  From down here Blue Scar was prominent. Those familiar Peak and Northern Footpath Society signs pointed in several directions, we chose the pleasant path leading down above Whitendale River to the luxuriant Costy Clough.

After that we rejoined the outward route on the road alongside the River Dunsop. We thought that the beech trees down the valley had an unusually rich crop of nuts on display this year.

Feeling weary from the heat and the steep trackless terrain on Middle Fell we were glad of a pot of tea at the cafe.

*****

LAZING IN THE LOT.

I had no plans for the holiday at my friend’s house [above] in The Lot Valley, France. This was my first time abroad for nearly a year and I struggled to get insurance. I’m feeling as fit as anything but because of the tablets I’m having to take etc no one wants to know me. The insurance I managed covers walking up to 1000m which is ridiculously low – there are road passes in France double that height. For now it doesn’t matter but I’ll take it up with them later.

As usual, I was ‘chef’ for the house and made use of as much fresh produce as possible, the supermarkets here have a huge choice. Lunches were salads and evening meals featured fish quiet often. The weather was hot so nobody was wanting large meals though large quantities of the local wines were drunk. This is the land of the dark ‘Cahors’ Malbec reds but also good dry rosés. Local restaurants were revisited though on several occasions I was happy to miss out and dine alfresco by the pool.

Most mornings before the house was awake I would do a circuit from the garden up into the woods and then down into the secluded Combe de Filhol. I love this route of a couple of miles, I often see deer and there are masses of flowers in the meadow above the combe. Orchids and poppies were prominent at this time of year.

An extra attraction was kestrels nesting in a wall in the buildings in the combe. One nestling was happy to pose for me.

A couple of days before we left a Jay fledgeling was found on the patio, it didn’t appear to get any food from its parents. As I was having breakfast on our last day suddenly another fledgeling dropped from the maple tree, there must have been a nest up there all the time with the adult Jays coming and going in secret. I wonder what happened to the two Jay fledgelings.

I walked the hills behind the house up to the prominent communication tower and thoroughly enjoyed the rollercoaster of a ridge with views over The Lot valley with the villages of Duravel and Puy L’Eveque down below.

Up here the thyme created a heady summer fragrance and butterflies were making the most of the sunny weather.

A couple of afternoons I enjoyed walks with my host if there was someone to help with his wife. I think he will need new boots before we return,

The longest day passed and there was a Strawberry Moon.

I worked in the garden and picked up a Tick for my troubles.

We were lucky to leave France before a record-breaking heatwave was due to arrive.

 

NOT THE BEST OF DAYS FOR AN ARNSIDE WALK.

 

As I came off the motorway my car radio was tuned into Radio Lancashire but as I approached Milnthorpe it automatically retuned to Radio Cumbria. This used to be Lancashire, today Arnside is in Cumbria [South Lakeland] whereas Silverdale is still in Lancashire. All very confusing and not very logical geographically. Poor old Westmorland disappeared altogether.

I was greeted with a cup of coffee and a custard pie from the local bakery on arrival at Sir Hugh’s house. It had been my suggestion that we walk around the coast from Arnside to Silverdale and back by Arnside Tower and Knott. It would be a good chance to catch up on recent trips and news.

 

We started on the promenade by The Albion where there is a ‘drinking’ fountain erected in memory of a Richard Moberly Clayton Grosvenor by his grandparents. Aged 4yrs sadly appendicitis killed him in 1903. In the background is the railway viaduct over The Kent.

This is a walk I did on past occasions with my young family and friends usually having lunch in the pub on the shore road in Silverdale. It all seemed different today, the coast has changed and where there were sand and grass there is now mud, and where there were a few caravans there is now a caravan metropolis. The first caravan park at New Barns seemed rather ramshackle but we found a way through, possibly not the most direct, We kept seeing the coast, the tide was out, as we followed woodland paths that came out onto small limestone cliffs.  The slippery limestone was unnerving at times but I followed my guide as he sped off into the mist and rain. At one point we came out onto White Creek, a bay with grassy foreshore. The path through the woods was good and we eventually emerged into another far superior caravan park which went on forever. I reckon that the holiday site is larger than Silverdale itself, it has its own pool, gym, bowling, play areas, bar and shops etc so I wonder how much the Arnside/Silverdale area benefits.

Arnside.

New Barns across the mud.

White Creek

Slippy when wet.

Holgate’s caravan city.

Caves in the Cove.

Silverdale Cove with Morecambe Bay beyond.

Humphrey Head with distant Walney Island.

The day had promised brightening skies but we had by now been walking in light rain for a couple of hours. We started to meet people out walking when we arrived in Silverdale, always a popular spot. A few streets later and we were heading back into fields towards Eaves Wood. As we entered the woods my local guide muttered that he [I wasn’t implicated] might not be able to find the Pepper Pot, a prominent landmark. We did and it was a good spot to stop for lunch whilst it was briefly dry giving good views south over Morecambe Bay and the fells to the east of the M6. The Pepper Pot was built in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, she must have more monuments to her name than any other royal. Also on the escarpment was a view indicator from our present Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, shame they didn’t build a salt cellar.

Artisan gate.

Eaves Wood.

Pepper Pot and viewfinder.

There were paths in all directions, many new to Sir Hugh, and we blundered northwards through trees to suddenly arrive at Arnside Tower one of the medieval Peel towers in the area. [The Scots liked raiding hereabouts] It looked in perilous condition and we gave it a wide birth. The nearby farm had one of the largest herds of cattle in one field that I’ve ever seen.

Head North.

Arnside Tower.

Herds.

Back into the woods and we make our way slowly up Arnside Knott. Nearing the top there is a seat with the best views northwards over to Grange and the Lakeland hills if they had been clear of cloud. We made an obligatory visit to the trig point, one that has been adopted by Arnside Ramblers and given an unusual paint job. There are too many trees up here for views. We found an open field to drop back into Arnside.

Across the Kent to Grange and hidden Lakeland.

Knotted trees.

Adopted Trig

Heading home.

It wasn’t that bad but I need to return when the sun is shining.

*****

 

JOHN O’GROATS TRAIL. Reflections.

Inverness to John O’Groats – 147 miles of coastal walking.

A trail of two halves, not just the way I did it but geographically also. The first half to Helmsdale is rural walking often along the shoreline whereas the northern half is rugged cliff top walking. Over the years many LEJOG walkers have ended up walking the dreaded A9 to finish their Odyssey which must be an anti-climax. Local walkers, Caithness Waybaggers, started looking at a coastal route away from the road and an American Jay Wilson who’d settled in the area became enthused by the idea. In 2016 a charity was established to promote the walk – Friends of the John O’Groats Trail and they have their own website http://www.jogt.org.uk/

Volunteers have worked hard on researching and way-marking a route, with more funding stiles and bridges have started to appear and the route is getting publicity and more people are walking it.  A ranger, Jim Bunting, has been appointed with funding for a year which will help push things forward.

I first became aware of the route last year when I was planning a week’s walking to help complete my own personal LEJOG walk which I’d been doing for over 50years without realising it. I’d recently finished off gaps down in the west country and was left with the way north of Inverness. So last summer I set off from Inverness with the main idea of staying off the A9, it was only when on the way that I fell into step with the JO’GTRAIL. Waymarks were rare but the walking was easy, mainly on small lanes and tracks with lots along the low coastline – lovely sandy beaches which could be used at low tides for easy walking and a quick swim when needed. Seals were constant companions along the coast. There was a bed at the end of every stage. I was enthused.

Fast forward almost a year, interrupted by illness, and I’m back on the trail. This time I have a  Harveys Map which I hardly used – too small a scale for my eyes, but more importantly a draft guide from the powers that be. This was a work of art, Wainwright style, which will hopefully come to publication. [I’ve donated to the cause for the use of it and whatever else]  I worry about commercial intrusions from the likes of Cicerone. The volunteers who have put so much into the route deserve their guide to be definitive.

A lot changed in a year and waymarking is coming on a treat. They have adopted an octagonal emblem reflecting the octagonal house of the legendary  Jan de Groot  and his brothers, Dutchmen of the 15th century who plied a ferry from the Scottish mainland to Orkney, Their house was one room, with eight windows and eight doors, to admit eight members of the family; the heads of different branches of it, to prevent their quarrels at the table.

This northern half of the trail is ‘not for the inexperienced’ as is the mantra – a trail in progress.

Despite the main road being within a few miles inland you feel very isolated on the cliffs. Many fences have to be climbed without stiles as yet, lots of barbed wire to rip your best Gortex pants to bits. Depending on which side of the fence you find yourself there are the dangers of frisky risky cattle or crumbling cliff edges.

Crossing rivers can be a challenge depending on rainfall and tides. I was impressed by some of the bridge-building that has recently taken place. I was also impressed by the depth of fast-flowing water on other unbridgeable burns. Take care!

Despite all that this trail is an experience not to be missed. The geology is amazing, the birdlife incredible, the flora unique, whales and dolphins common sights, historical sites around every headland, the local population welcoming. The geos [sea inlets] are outstanding even if they seem to double the distance of each day’s walk. The little simple harbours, most long ago abandoned, are evocative of the herring fishing industry of the 18/20th centuries. A novel by Neil M Gunn, a native of Dunbeath, The Silver Darlings refers to the sight of the masses of fish visible to clifftop watchers. As the shoals were spotted small boats would be launched from the harbours to maximise the haul.

What more do you want?

I can foresee that once established and trodden [the summer bracken growth is a problem] this will become one of the most sought after challenging walks in Britain. I’m glad I walked it in its infancy for the adventure it provided.

Enjoy.

Now, what about JOG to Cape Wrath?