A cool misty Lancashire day, with the sky as close-fitting as a grey cloth cap over Rossendale and its tributary valleys. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A cheery milkman met us on the lane from Lumb to the moors, chinking two bottles in his hand. ‘G’morning – y’all right?’
The Pennine Bridleway ran as a hedged lane, winding and twisting past farmhouses and isolated cottages, all the buildings and field walls of the same dark sandy stone blotched with the green lichen so characteristic of these moors. Over the uplands a silence lay, broken by a crow call, a faint whistle of wind in the sedges, and the expressive fluting of a blackbird in the valley far below. As always when looking down from these moors, it was hard to relate today’s smokeless factory chimneys, silent mills and empty terraced streets to the roar and rattle, smog and human movement of half a century ago in these once-industrial valleys.
The bridleway led on through deeply hollowed miniature canyons worn down by centuries of boots, hooves and farm wheels. Many old tracks tangle and ramify across the moors – limers’ gaits along which laden carts jolted to bring lime fertilizer to the acid fields, packhorse routes and colliers’ trods, a superb network for riders and walkers exploring the Rossendale uplands. At an old stone cross we swung west, crossing the sedgy moorland fields with glimpses north to the steely waters of Clowbridge Reservoir and the slopes of Nutshaw Hill.
Down at Goodshaw we found Kathy Fishwick – an old acquaintance and a key-holder of the remarkable Goodshaw Chapel. This ancient Baptist foundation looks like a house, and in fact it is one – a house of the Lord. Every square inch inside is crammed with high-sided box pews with hard benches and a good view of the minister’s desk. Goodshaw Chapel could easily hold a congregation of three or four hundred. It frequently did so in times past, when the faith followed the wool and cotton trade. In 1760 the chapel-goers came singing over the hills, bearing these pews on their backs to furnish their new prayer house, which formed the heart of the community for the next two hundred years.
We bade Kathy goodbye and went on up steep-sided Folly Clough with its old millrace relics, out and over Swinshaw Moor where larks laid claim to each sedge clump in song and the black peaty pools reflected the racing sky.
START: Millennium Green, Lumb, Lancs, BB4 (OS ref SD 838250)
GETTING THERE: Bus 273 (Burnley-Bolton), 482, 483 (Burnley-Bury) – rossendalebus.co.uk
Road: M66 to Rawtenstall; A681 (‘Bacup’); in Waterfoot, left on B6238 (‘Burnley’); in 2¼ miles, park at Lumb Millennium Green.
WALK (6 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL21. Online maps, more walks: christophersomerville.co.uk):
Follow Pennine Bridleway/PBW north. In 1¼ miles Rossendale Way/RW joins PBW beyond Near Pastures (840268). In 500 m PBW turns right (841273), but keep ahead. At stone cross (838276) RW turns left across moor for 1⅔ miles, descending to road in Goodshaw Chapel (815267). Left to pass chapel on left (815263). Ignore footpath fingerpost beside chapel; in another 70 m, left up tarred path, through gateway (815262). Diagonally right on path; through gate by wood (816261); down through squeeze stile; on down walled lane (yellow arrow/YA). At bottom (816259), left past metal barrier, up grassy track in steep-sided valley on left bank of beck (YAs). In 400 m cross beck; in 200 m bear right up steps (820261), past farm at top. Right through kissing gate (822261); ahead down farm drive. In 350 m, left through stone kissing gate (820259; YA). Follow path up gully, past trees onto moor. In ½ mile, at edge of Swinshaw Moor Access Land (827256), YA points diagonally left; but keep ahead beside wall, then fence. Cross stile; on to waymark post with 3 YAs (832254). Ahead with wall on right past wind generator; then with wall on left. Through metal gate; skirt cottages (835252); down farm drive to Lumb.
NB: Very muddy in parts; steep, awkward path beside beck (816259 – 820261); some sheep-wire hopping may be necessary.
REFRESHMENTS: Picnic; or Hargreaves Arms, Lumb (01706-215523; thehargreavesarms.co.uk)
ACCOMMODATION: Ye Olde Boot & Shoe, Millar Barn Lane, Waterfoot, BB4 7AU (01706-213828; yeoldebootandshoe.co.uk) – very cheerful, helpful, walker-friendly inn.
INFORMATION: Rawtenstall TIC (01706-226590); visitlancashire.com
Extract from the diary of William Frank Bramhill (1913-1997), courtesy of his son Will Bramhill:
‘I experienced many happy days there too… I can remember going with Uncle Walter over the moors, and the long and enjoyable climb up from the Rossendale valley and down into Edenfield. Sometimes he would take his son Jim and I just to the top of the moor and we would sit for hours looking down into the valley towards Rawtenstall or northward towards Crawshawbooth. I got to love that valley… after all I had spent best part of my young years in it. The abject poverty of it all was hidden from the top of the moor… one could only see the smoking chimneys of the various cotton mills and from that height you could not see the pollution on the small stream that a little further down the valley became the Irwell.
Being in the valley and in the mills was different however… there was no beauty there… only constantly roaring machinery, the click clack of the looms and the swishing of countless leather straps over huge wheels… to a little boy all very frightening… what stayed in my memory most was the grey faces of the workers… pinched faces… no smiles… clogs, shawls, a seven day week for thirty bob (£1.50)… or a workhouse… the houses consisted of small cottages… one up and one down… if you can think of the latest television play ‘Sam‘ you get the true atmosphere… pint mugs… well scrubbed deal topped tables, rocking chairs and the kitchen range with its water boiler at the side from which you drew your hot water for washing… outside toilets… which were nothing better than a huge bucket slung under a well scrubbed wooden seat… the buckets emptied once weekly when a special horse drawn vehicle would come around the houses during the small hours to empty what became known as the ‘midnight soil‘. At such times the smell was appalling and lingers over fifty years in the memory.
In 1959 when visiting the valley one sensed but little change. I visited Edna, she was Walter‘s sister… older now of course but with the same pinched haggard face. I do not think I would have liked to have been an adult in those years… life must have been very hard… and we were supposedly a great Empire… the richest nation in the world… at £1.50 per week one couldn‘t say they were rich could they? Crawshawbooth had changed very little… unless it was that one noticed the absence of clogs which used to be worn by both male and female… now shoes were worn… once such luxuries were only for wedding days and funerals… the black shawls had gone but the faces were the same.’