First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The old Lancashire mill village of Earby, tucked under the western edge of the West Pennine Moors, is facing a lot of challenges, like other similar post-industrial settlements in this part of the world. But the Red Lion pub is still proud to eschew a food service in favour of specialising in well-kept beers, and the Youth Hostel (now Earby Holiday Hostel) does a lively trade.
The wind-torn sycamores were budding out as we climbed the stone walled track of Stanridge Clough Lane to the upper ground of Bleara Moor. You have to grab with both hands a day like today with unbroken blue sky, the east wind bringing cries of young lambs and the bubbling calls of curlew. The sun spread its cheerful buttery light across upland moors and valley pastures, a reminder of just how long and dreary winter had been.
When in 1965 John Hillaby came walking the just-opened Pennine Way a few miles eastward, he found the first section across the gritstone moors a muddy purgatory. But there were moments of rare delight, too, expressed by Hillaby in his classic account Journey Through Britain. The tumbling flight of courting lapwings in their aerial dances today recalled Hillaby walking into a lapwing kindergarten not far away. ‘In the air they play with the wind, toying with it, rolling over … then they settle down on their nests with a little shiver of ecstasy.’
In the black trickling sykes or peat moor streams, frogs set up their insistent mating calls: ‘Breddit, breddit, breddy-eddy-eddit.’ All over Blears Moor and Thornton Moor, nature was tuning up for the grand symphony of spring.
We descended the rough hill road of Dodgson’s Lane to pass Fiddling Clough where the farmstead lay pinched in the narrow stream cleft, abandoned, already sinking back into the ground. A former tenant, John o’Ned’s, once held a grand opening of his new henhouse for all the neighbourhood, including a contest involving eating hot dumplings from a greasy plate without benefit of cutlery. They knew how to have fun in them days.
Past Fiddling Clough and Oak Slack farm we met the Pennine Way and followed it down smooth green sheep pastures for the final couple of miles back to Earby.
How hard is it? 7 miles; easy; hill paths
Start: Car park, Victoria Road, Earby, BB18 6US (OS ref SD 907468)
Getting there: Bus 280, Preston-Skipton
Road: Earby is on A56 (Colne-Skipton)
Walk (OS Explorer OL21): left to Water Street, right; left up Red Lion Street, on up Mill Brow Road. In 600m at bench on left, fork right (918468, ‘bridleway’) for 600m to meet Stanridge Clough Lane (919461). Left. In 600m pass Higher Verjuice ruin (925458); left along wall. In 700m, left down Dodgson’s Lane (932460). In 650m at gate in dip, ahead through gate (929466); aim left of barn, right of farmhouse ruin (926469). Cross stream; continue to cross Wentcliff Brook (925472) and up to Oak Slack Farm (924474). Cross drive; up field to stone stile (923576); ahead (923478, The Mount garden, stile). Half left to footbridge (925481); left down Pennine Way to Brown House (918484). Left through farmyard between cattle sheds; through gate; follow right-hand fence, then stream on right to Booth Bridge (914478). Cross drive; path up plantation, then fields to Batty House Farm (914473). Follow drive to T-junction (913468); right past Red Lion into Earby, or left to Holiday Hostel.
Lunch: Punch Bowl, Skipton Rd, Earby BB18 6JJ (01282-843017, thepunchbowlearby.co.uk)
Accommodation: Earby Holiday Hostel, Birch Hall Lane, Earby BB18 6JX (0779-190-3454; earbyhostel.co.uk)