Search Results : Lancashire Lancs

Sep 142019
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Trawden lies in a narrow dale – the name signifies a trough-like valley – between the old mill towns of Nelson and Colne and the high empty moors of the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. We left this cheerful, friendly village gearing up for a festival with stalls and silver bands, and climbed a cobbled lane south towards the open country under a blue sky.

Out in the fields, well-tended gritstone walls divided the large square pastures. The cockerels and dogs of Trawden made Sunday music far below, their cries fading under the sharp alarm calls of curlew in the sedge clumps as we gained height towards the twin Coldwell reservoirs. The water sparkled in little sandy bays where oystercatcher parents piped their fledgling chicks in line astern along the shore.

An old moor lane led east at the foot of the rough slopes of Boulsworth Hill. Rutted and walled, paved with slabs deeply indented by boots, hooves and cart wheels, it gave superb views north over the walled fields and farmsteads of the Forest of Trawden, a Saxon hunting forest gradually overtaken by farming, milling and mining. Back west rose the shapely bulk of Pendle Hill, burdened with legends of witches and evil spells, today just a beautiful hill in plain sunshine.

Deep brackeny cloughs brought hill streams twisting down from the heights to the south. We crossed Turnhole Clough and followed the Brontë Way down to the sprawling shell of Wycoller Hall, Charlotte Brontë’s model in Jane Eyre for Mr Rochester’s lonely house of Ferndean Hall. A melancholy ruin – blank windows, chilly stone halls – in a gorgeous leafy dell.

A glass of pink lemonade, cold and refreshing, in the little tearoom at Wycoller, and we found the homeward path through fields where sheep lay panting in the shade of upright gritstone slabs that served for fencing.

The pale blue shoulder of Pendle Hill rose on the far skyline as an aiming point, and from down in Trawden the thump and blare of a silver band came in atmospheric blasts across the still, sun-scorched fields.

Start: Trawden Arms PH, Trawden, Lancs BB8 8RU (OS ref SD 912388)

Getting there: Bus M3, Trawden-Accrington
Road – Trawden (B6250) is signed off A6068 in Colne.

Walk (8 miles, field paths and moorland tracks, OS Explorer OL21): Fork left off B6250 at Trawden Arms, up lane. In 450m cross road (912384); path to right of Trawden Literary Institute, past garages (fingerpost) into fields (911383). Ahead uphill beside wall; past radio mast (909378). At Pasture Springs Farm dogleg right/left (908377). At Moss Barn, right along front of house (907374); through gate (yellow arrow/YA); cross field to stile into plantation (YA).

Left; in 30m, ahead (YA); follow path through trees. At wall (906372) bear right through plantation to stile/footbridge onto moor (905370, YA). Half right, aiming a little left of wind turbine, to ladder stile overlooking Lower Coldwell Reservoir (903367). Ahead to gate onto road (903364); left for 350m; left onto bridleway (903361, fingerpost), following ‘Pennine Bridleway’ and ‘Wycoller’. After 3 miles, cross Turnhole Clough (941379); in 300m, left (943381, ‘Brontë Way, Wycoller’) for 1 mile to Wycoller.

Pass Wycoller Hall ruin (933392) and packhorse bridge; follow Trawden road out of village across road bridge. In 200m on right bend, go through wooden gate on right of farm track (930394, fingerpost). Diagonally across field to stile; on with fence on left; through metal gate, and fork left uphill (928393, YA) past Bracken Hill Farm. On west across fields (YAs, ‘Trawden’ fingerposts), aiming for Pendle Hill ahead.

In ¾ mile cross farm track at Higher Stunstead (916390) and on along lane down to Trawden. At B6250 (912389), left to Trawden Arms.

Lunch: Trawden Arms (01282-337055, trawdenarms.co.uk) – cheerful, popular village pub.

Tea: Wycoller Tearoom.

Accommodation: Old Stone Trough, Kelbrook, Barnoldswick BB18 6XY (01282-844844, oldstonetrough.co.uk) – convenient, great value.

Info: trawdenparishcouncil.org.uk; visitlancashire.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:45
Apr 272019
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Walsden lies in a hollow of the hills in bleak moorland country where Yorkshire meets Lancashire. Strong sunlight and a cold wind greeted us as we climbed the stony trod of Long Causeway. Below, swathes of blanket bog cradled the reservoir of Cranberry Dam in cushions of pale brown velvet.

For all its upland wildness, this is a landscape of industrial endeavour, past and present. Sheer-sided scoops in the sides of the steep little cloughs or stream valleys showed evidence of lead and coal mining. Pylons like skeleton trees strode across the country. And high on Noon Hill and Ramsden Hill, tall white wind turbines lazily turned their three-blades apiece with a gentle, greasy whine and whoosh.

Among these ghostly giants we found an old track that rose past the gritty spoil banks of long-gone lead mines in the flanks of Rough Hill. Far in the south, beyond the million diamond sparkles of Watergrove Reservoir, the towers and factory chimneys of Manchester lay hazed with distance.

A confusion of ill-marked paths had us scratching our heads at the junction with the Rossendale Way, but soon we were heading north over squelchy black peat, through sedgy fields where sheep grazed. A pair of baths, complete with shiny chrome taps, stood beside the fence half-full of scummy green water, waiting for a walker too hot and sweaty to resist their allure.

On the heights of Trough Edge End the broad walled track of the Rossendale Way met the old trodden track now styled the Todmorden Centenary Way. It dropped down a bank among mine ridges to the ruin of Coolam Farm, and followed the old road past Pot Oven, once a beer-house for travellers in these lonely wastes. ‘Deaf old Sam’ Jackson, farmer, fustian weaver and tenant here in 1784, raised ten children with his wife Martha Woodhead. Foulclough Mine opened in the 1790s, and Sam and Martha’s sons became colliers and left the fustian trade forever.

A final descent into Ramsden Wood’s narrow clough, and a teetering path through bluebell woods high above waterfalls and cascades, back to the lake where stolid fishermen with twenty-foot roach poles were patiently sitting the evening out.

Start: Ramsden Wood fishing lake, Ramsden Lane, Walsden, W. Yorks OL14 7UN approx (OS ref SD 928213).

Getting there: Bus 589, 590 (Todmorden – Rochdale)
Road – A6033 (Todmorden – Littleborough) to Walsden; Ramsden Wood Road (next to Border Rose Inn); in 600m, left up Ramsden Lane to car park. Also parking in Ramsden Wood Road.

Walk (6 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL21): On up lane. At Plantation Barn fork left (924213) over cattle grid. In 200m, right through gate (‘Long Causeway’). In 1 mile cross wind turbine service roadway (918199); in 200m, right at marker stone on moor track. In 400m, left across stream spring (914200, yellow arrow/YA). Track rises through mine heaps. 100m beyond last heap, fork left on rutted track (910201). In 200m wall comes in on left; follow it for 600m to turn right along gravel road (903198).

In 200m, at post with red reflectors, left (904199); turn left to follow enclosure fence, keeping it on your right. At northwest corner, keep ahead on track over Hades Hill. In 450m through gate (906203); left along fence; in 300m, left (904207, stile) across field to ladder stile (903206). Don’t cross it, but turn right/north with wall on left, on Rossendale Way. In nearly 1 mile right (901221) along Todmorden Centenary Way/TC.

In 350m, cross stile (904218); left along fence to trig pillar (906219). Half right on path down hillside towards Coolam Farm ruin. Near ruin, left through gate (911215, TC); follow rocky lane downhill. In 200m left along walled lane (913215, TC). In ⅔ mile, pass Pot Oven (920219); in another 200m, right (922220, TC) across farmyard. On down green lane. 50m before it turns left across Ragby Bridge, left through gate (923216, YA), on path (see below) above river to car park. Alternative: follow TC up past Inchfield to meet outward route (923212); left to car park.

Conditions: Rough moor paths. Riverside path to car park – steep drops, narrow path.

Lunch: Border Rose Inn, Walsden OL14 7UA (01706-812142)

Accommodation: Moorcock Inn, Halifax Road, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough OL15 0LD (01706-378156, themoorcockinn.co.uk)

Info: Hebden Bridge TIC (01422-843831)
satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

Ships of Heaven – The Private Life of Britain’s Cathedrals by Christopher Somerville (Transworld) was published on 11 April

 Posted by at 02:54
Jun 172017
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Young lambs crying, ewes blaring, and a curlew emitting haunting cries from the slopes of Clougha as we skirted the stone stronghold of Cragg Farm. Sunlight slanted across the folded fells that climbed southward into the great upland wilderness of the Forest of Bowland. Nearer at hand, our aiming point of Clougha ran as a high line stretched against a pale blue summer sky.

Beyond the slit-windowed wall of Skelbow Barn – more fortress than hay-store – we turned uphill beside the musically burbling Sweet Beck. A faint path led up beside a nameless stream trickling over mats of slippery moss, heading for higher ground through tough old heather sprigs and acid green bilberry.

The sun struck glitters of mica out of the sandy stones of the track. Two bright green butterflies spiralled together over the heather, lovers or antagonists. A spring whelmed from the heart of a cushion of emerald moss so intensely green it stung the eyes. Thirty thousand feet above, a jet drew a smoky finger of white across the blue ceiling of the sky, a message from another world entirely.

Up at the heights of Clougha, three rectangular stone monoliths stood side by side in a sea of grey stony clitter. Close-up, they proved to be an installation by landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy – ‘Clougha Pike Chambers’, a trio of sentry boxes with beautiful elliptical openings. ‘A womb with a view,’ said Jane, sitting back in one of the sculptures to gaze out across the hillside and listen to cuckoos calling from Cragg Wood far below.

A Landrover track proved a reliable guide on our descent from Clougha. We stopped to watch an army of ants dragging a dried-out centipede across the stones. A mother grouse clicked frantically to her three fluffball chicks to stay low and invisible as we walked by. And out in front unrolled a most stupendous hundred-mile view over the low-tide immensities of Morecambe Sands, the widening arms of the Lakeland and North Wales coasts, and a blur on the western sea horizon that might have been the Isle of Man.

Start: Little Crag car park, near Caton, Lancaster LA2 9ET (OS ref SD 546618)

Getting there: On Littledale Road (off Rigg Lane, between Caton and Quernmore – M6, Jct 34)

Walk (5½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL41): Leaving car park, right along road. In 100m, right by cattle grid, over ladder stile, past Cragg Farm on field track. In 700m, left through gate at Skelbow Barn (551613). In 100m, right uphill with wall on right. Through gate; in 150m, left over ladder stile (551611). Right along wall; in 100m, beside gate, left up track on left of beck (NOT green embanked track on your right!), aiming for tree. Above tree continue, keeping about 100m from wall on left. In 300m, make for stony track bearing left round hillside, parallel with wall. 700m after leaving tree, track curves right/south (553606) for ¾of a mile to meet a 4 x 4 track (552596). Left to Goldsworthy installation (556595); return along 4 x 4 track. After 1¾ quarter mile descent, track turns sharp left near Cragg Wood wall for steep descent into gully (541612); right here on path along north edge of Access Land for ⅔ of a mile to ladder stile (551611), Skelbow Barn and car park.

Conditions: Ascent boggy after rain. Inadvisable in mist.

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: The Borough, Dalton Square, Lancs LA1 1PD (01524-64170) – cheerful city centre stop-over.

Info: Lancaster TIC (01524-582394)
Information, online maps, more walks: christophersomerville.co.uk

Rossendale Round-the-hills Walk, 3 September:
facebook.com/Rossendaleroundthehillswalk/

visitlancashire.com, satmap.com, ramblers.org.uk

The January Man – A Year of Walking Britain by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday, £14.99).

 Posted by at 02:11
May 282016
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A glorious afternoon on the west Lancashire coast under wall-to-wall blue sky. We walked the green fields of Cockerham with the Bowland moors rising in the east, Blackpool Tower tiny and familiar down in the southwest, and the Lake District fells around Helvellyn and Scafell Pike standing as if cut from pale blue card on the northern horizon.

Down at the sea wall a great flat apron of saltmarsh lay spread at the edge of Cockerham Sands, cut with wriggling channels. Brackish pools winked in the sun like a thousand bright eyes. The tide was on the make, advancing along the shore road and up the creeks in a frothy mini-tsunami, driving flights of loudly piping dunlin, oystercatchers and redshank shoreward in agitation. Further out on a vanishing sandbank, geese babbled together, a musical chiming across the water, reminiscent of sheep bells in Alpine pastures.

The seawall path ran past Bank End and Bank Houses, remote farmsteads among flat green pastures out at the edge of the land. As the coast turned north we came to Cockersand Abbey, or what remains of it – a curious semi-rectagonal chapter house among angles of walls, its soft red sandstone rubbed into dimples and hollows by 800 years of wind and weather.

Cockersand Abbey was founded on this lonely shore as a leper hospital. When the site was excavated in the 1920s, archaeologists found fragments of lead and coloured glass from the windows that were smashed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The abbey ruin became a source of ready-worked building stone. Only the chapter house survived, because the local landowners wanted it for their family mausoleum.

From Cockersand Abbey we followed the windy coast path north to Crook Farm, with Heysham Power Station looming massively ahead like a 1950s suburban house designed by an ogre. Soon it was behind us, and we followed the grassy imprint of Marsh Lane over sheep pastures to Glasson Dock, a rare survival of a small working port. A dip into the cornucopia of goodies in the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse here, and a last stretch on a railway path into Conder Green above the golden marshes of the Lune Estuary.

Start: Manor Inn, Cockerham, near Lancaster, LA2 0EF (OS ref SD 465522)

Getting there: Bus 89, 89H (Lancaster-Knott End)
Road – Cockerham is on A588 between Conder Green and Pilling (M6, Jct 33)

Walk (7 miles, flat and easy, OS Explorer 296. Online map, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): South from Manor Inn down A588; in 50m, right beside Old Mill House. Follow lane; through garden at top; through kissing gate at end of garden (464524, yellow arrow/YA). Follow fence on right downhill; follow YAs along field edges, round cottage (462529). Leave cottage garden over stile; ahead over field and footbridge (YA); follow ditch/fence on right for ½ mile to Hillam Lane (455531). Left past Hillam Farm; in ½ mile, right (449528) along sea wall. Follow Lancaster Coastal Path/LCP north for 3¾ miles via Bank End (441528), Cockersand Abbey chapter house (427537), Crook Farm (431550) and Marsh Lane to road at Glasson (443556). Left, then right to Glasson Dock. Cross swing bridge (445561); cross road by Victoria Inn; right along LCP. In ¾ of a mile, cross bridge (456560); right to Conder Green. Bus 89/89H or taxi (01995-607777; £6.50) to Cockerham.

Lunch: Picnic – provisions from Port of Lancaster Smokehouse, Glasson – 01524-751493, lancastersmokehouse.co.uk

Accommodation: The Mill at Conder Green, Lancs, LA2 0BD (01524-752852; themillatcondergreen.co.uk) – really comfortable, superbly positioned.

Information: Lancaster TIC (01524-582394), visitlancashire.com

visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:05
Jul 112015
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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We found a witch – albeit a stuffed one – sitting at a table outside the Barley Mow, and witches riding broomsticks on the footpath signs out of Barley village. One can scarcely avoid the pointy-hatted personages in this part of the world. Pendle Hill, the great whaleback that looms over Barley from the west, is the witchiest hill in England – mostly, but not entirely, on account of the notorious trials of 1612 when ten local men and women were hanged at Lancaster for practising the Dark Arts.

Pendle Hill is a massive presence in the landscape. It seems always to have had an ominous reputation, probably because of the way it attracts dramatic weather. Today it rode under a great breaking wave of cloud. As we climbed the steep, stone-pitched path to the summit, skeins of mist came drifting across, turning Pendle House farm below into a washy watercolour. A kestrel came swooping out of the cloud and cut down across the path with backswept wings, vanishing into the mist.

Runners, dog walkers and hill climbers materialised, passed us and were swallowed up in cloud. At the top we followed a grassy track to find George Fox’s Well, a modest, urban-looking trapdoor in the hillside. Raising it revealed a silver tankard chained to the lid, ready to be lowered into the well. I drank a scooped handful from the spring below – ice cold, glass-clear and sweet. George Fox, young and full of spiritual zeal, refreshed himself here in 1652. He had just experienced the epiphanic revelation on Pendle’s summit that drove him forth to preach mightily and to found the Quaker movement.

We forged south through the mist along the crest of Pendle, on a cairned track that soon turned and plunged down out of the murk. Big views opened eastward as we followed a rutted bridleway at the foot of the hill, down to where the Ogden Water’s shallow flow wound out of steep-sided Ogden Clough to fill the twin reservoirs that lie above Barley.

Coming back into the village we passed the site of Malkin Tower, lair of the Pendle witches – according to their persecutors. What Alizon Device, Chattox, Old Demdike and Mouldheels were really up to, who knows? Probably no more than a few home cures and a bit of unwise chanting. Whatever it was, their shadows still lie long across this beautiful valley and the hill that overhangs it.

Start: Car park, Barley Picnic Site, Nr Nelson, Lancs, BB12 9JX (OS ref SD 823403)

Getting there: Bus 7 (Clitheroe-Nelson)
Road – M65, Jct 13; A682 (‘Kendal’); in ¾ mile, left (‘Roughlee’). From Roughlee, follow ‘Barley’.

Walk (6¼ miles, moderate/hard, OS Explorer OL41. NB: Detailed description, online map, more walks: christophersomerville.co.uk). Turn right through village. Left by Meadow Bank Farm (‘Pendle Way’/PW) along stream. Follow ‘Pendle Hill’ signs through fields for 1 mile to Pendle House farm (809412). Follow steep, stepped path diagonally right to top of Pendle Hill. Right over stile (806418) and follow path for 200m to George Fox’s Well (hatch cover by path, 805420). Return over stile; right for 100m; left/south on sandy/stony path to Big End trig pillar (805414). On south along track past big cairns; at the last big cairn, fork slightly right on a path marked with smaller cairns. 600m beyond trig pillar, PW forks right (804409); but keep ahead, following grassy track in groove that bends left to rim of escarpment (805408).

Descend to Pendle House farm. Bear right along bridleway, leaving farm below on left. Keep wall on left and follow bridleway south for ¾ mile, passing above Under Pendle (808404). Near top of narrow gully, bridleway turns left (807401); but keep ahead through kissing gate, on and down to Ogden Water (801397). Left through gate (PW). Follow PW past Upper Ogden Reservoir. Join road (807397) past Lower Ogden Reservoir, and on to Barley.

Conditions: Sharp, steep climb from Pendle House to summit. Pendle Hill often windy, rainy, misty – hill-walking gear advised.

Lunch/accommodation: Barley Mow, Barley, Pendle BB12 9JX (01282-690868, barleymowpendle.co.uk) – welcoming, walker-friendly pub with rooms.

Info: The Cabin Café and Information Centre, Barley Picnic Site (01282-696937); Clitheroe TIC (01200-425566); visitlancashire.com

Pendle Walking Festival:
15-23 August, www.visitpendle.com/countryside/walking-festival

satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk; visitengland.com

 Posted by at 01:45
Sep 132014
 

A cool and cloudy morning over the Forest of Bowland, the moorland heart of Lancashire.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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As we walked the sheep pastures under the dun brown shoulder of Beatrix Fell, a curlew got up from its nest among the sedges and flew low past us. Its long downcurved bill quivered open to emit the familiar bubbling trill that haunts these northern hills. The sedgy field path brought us past a string of old stone farmhouses, then up the open flank of Dunsop Fell and out into open moorland.

In past times the Forest of Bowland lay under harsh laws of prohibition. The landlord’s tenants were made to pass their dogs through a silver hoop – any animal too big and powerful to scramble through would be destroyed as a potential poaching asset. Grouse shooting interests were paramount, and ramblers were strenuously discouraged. But times and tempers changed. When the Countryside and Rights of Way Act was passed in 2000, this enormous wheel of bleak and beautiful country was opened to all walkers for the first time in history.

Bowland is properly wild country, with plenty of surprises for walkers. Up at Dunsop Head we found the springs of Dunsop Brook overflowing with stored rainwater. We floundered along through soft, sloppy, sucking peat and moss. Jane went in knee-deep, emerging with a tremendous sucking sound as though the bog were smacking its lips over her like a tasty lollipop.

At last we reached firmer ground, where three birdwatchers were waiting. ‘See the male hen harrier?’ cheerily enquired their leader. ‘Flew right across where you were.’ But we’d been too preoccupied with our battle with the bog to spare a glance for anything else. ‘Yep, only three of them in Britain,’ the twitcher exulted. ‘We saw him, all right!’

Down in the hidden cleft of Whitendale, other ornithological celebrities are resident – a pair of breeding eagle owls, surprise incomers with six-foot wingspans, capable of taking out a young deer. We didn’t spot these beautiful strangers on the way back to Dunsop Bridge. But there were grey wagtails and herons, white-chested dippers and black-capped stonechats, and a crowd of jolly house martins hawking over the river, their white rumps and scarlet streaks a vivid splash of colour against the grey skies of evening.

Start: Dunsop Bridge car park, Lancs BB7 3BE approx. (OS ref SD 661501)

Getting there: Bus Service 10 (dalesbus.org), Clitheroe-Slaidburn
Road: M6, Jct 31a; B6243 (‘Clitheroe’) through Longridge; 1 mile past Knowle Green, left on minor road through Whitewell to Dunsop Bridge.

Walk (10½ miles, strenuous, OS Explorer OL41. NB: Detailed directions – highly recommended – online map, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): Right along road; just before bridge, right (‘bridleway’) along drive. Pass terraced houses (658507); in 100m, right (yellow arrow/YA) through kissing gate, up steps, over stile; ahead along fence. At ruined wall, half-left to Beatrix Farm (664514). 100m past farmhouse, left through gate. Blue arrow/BA points ahead, but follow 2 YAs (pointing left) along right bank of stream (YAs). In ½ mile, at bottom of Oxenhurst Clough, cross stream (671518). Follow YAs, with fence on right, to farm drive (674521); on past The Hey to Burn House (682528). Through driveway gate and on down to lane (685522).

Left for ¾ mile. Left up drive (694530, ‘Burnside Cottage’). Skirt Burnside Cottage through gates (690537); on up fellside beside stone wall (BAs). At top of wall (687540), through gate; bear right. 200m past conifer clump, path hairpins back left and climbs for 1 mile to Dunsop Head (676542).

NB! Deep, wet bogs across the path here! Bear left to stone wall on high ground to left of bogs; follow it to the right, to a fence curving away to left; follow this fence west, then north, keeping close to it, and treading with care, till you meet the wall again near a gate (675544).

From the gate, left along moor path (yellow-topped posts, arrows, cairns) for 1 mile, descending to Whitendale. By first stone wall of farmyard, left (662550, unmarked) on path with wall on right. In nearly 1 mile, horseshoe left across Costy Clough footbridge (659536). In 150m, right over stile, down to track; left for 500m; right across footbridge (654533), left along road for 2¼ miles to Dunsop Bridge.

Conditions: Deep, wet bogs at Dunsop Head. Hill-walking gear, boots, stick.

Refreshments: Picnic; Puddleducks tearoom, Dunsop Bridge (01200-448241)

Accommodation: Inn at Whitewell, BB7 3AT (01200-448222, innatwhitewell.com) – wonderful old inn; comfortable, welcoming, full of character; 2½ miles from Dunsop Bridge

Information: Clitheroe TIC (01200-425566)

visitengland.com; www.satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:41
Apr 272013
 

The Gibbon Bridge Hotel and the nearby village of Chipping cater enthusiastically for walkers these days. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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But before the Countryside & Rights of Way Act became law in 2000, most of the neighbouring Forest of Bowland was closed to the public. Nowadays, however, this great tract of upland moors with its encircling ribbon of villages is Lancashire’s prime walking location, a vast swathe of Access Land criss-crossed by hundreds of walker-friendly paths and tracks.

Daffodils and primulas were putting their heads out cautiously in Chipping’s window boxes as a fine strong wind came roaring in from the sea 20 miles westward. Cloud shadows and sunlight raced across the slopes of Wolf Fell and Parlick as we crossed the sedgy fields around Fish House and Windy Harbour. A big hare with dull orange pelt and black-tipped ears sprang up from a sedge clump and dashed away, and a lapwing went tumbling overhead across the gale in an ecstatic mating display. Two oystercatchers chased each other round the windy sky with piercing piping calls, and we could hear the bubbling cry of curlews in the wet fields – all signs of onrushing spring.

It was a stiff, steady climb up the steep grassy breast of Parlick, the wind shoving from the west, the path slippery underfoot. At the summit, a view in a million – back across the field and farms below the moors to witchy Pendle Hill grey and ship-shaped in the east, and forward to an enormous curve of moorland – Blindhurst Fell, Fair Snape Fell, Wolf Fell, Saddle Fell, Burnslack Fell, rounded flanks of oatmeal, olive and burnt orange dipping south, a great ridge of peat hags connecting them like waves in a sluggish rust-brown sea far back up the northern skyline.

We followed a guiding fence and a whistling gritstone wall that filtered the wind into a high-pitched keening. At the crest of Wolf Fell we left the fence and plunged among fantastically eroded peat hags, then down the long green snout of Saddle Fell into the wind, with the Bowland valley spread before us. Ewes came bleating at Saddle End Farm as the farmer and his dogs herded them up the fellside, and down by Dobson’s Brook the week-old lambs bounced away as though each fat white leg were made of springs.

Start: Car park, Chipping, Lancs, PR3 2QH (OS ref SD 621433).

Getting there: Bus (lancashire.gov.uk): 5, 5A (Chipping-Clitheroe), 5B (Clitheroe-Garstang), 35 (Chipping-Blackburn)
Road: Chipping is signed from Longridge on B6243 Preston-Clitheroe road (M6, Jct 31a).

Walk (7½ miles, hard, OS Explorer OL 41. NB Online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk):

From car park, to road; left toward church; first left. In 300m, lane curves left (620435). Follow it past Old Hive. At gateway to Quiet Lane, left down Springs House drive (616436, fingerpost). In 350m, at left bend, right (612436, stile, yellow arrow/YA) across field; next stile (YA); stone stile by barn; cross stream (611437). Ahead (YA), bearing half-right to track to Fish House farm (610441). Left along Fish House Lane; in 30m, right (stile, fingerpost). Cross fields (stiles, YAs), aiming for left corner of trees ahead at foot of Parlick. Cross drive (603444, YA); on through kissing gate/KG by Wildcock House ruin (602446); left to Fell Foot house (599445). Turn right up steep pitched path to climb Parlick.

From summit cairn (596450) follow fence (keeping it on your left) for 1½ miles. Roughly opposite Paddy’s Pole cairn on left, fence bends half-right (595469). Soon it bends half-right again at a junction of fences, with 2 stiles on either side of a gate. Keep following it to summit of Wolf Fell (598472), another junction for fences with a pitched path going away north. Here 2 stony tracks, close together, lead off to right. Take 2nd one, a clear track heading east through peat hags. In ¾ mile, go through KG in fence (609470); bear right on grassy track parallel to descending fence, then trending away to left. Follow it south down Saddle Fell for 1¼ miles (YAs) to Saddle End farm (614451). Through farmyard; down drive to cross road (616448, fingerpost). On along track, across Dobson’s Brook (618446) to farmhouse. Through gate (619446, YAs); immediately right through gate (‘Chipping’); descend bank to cross brook (620445). Follow path (YAs) through fields, parallel to brook, down to lane by reservoir (619437). Left into Chipping.
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Conditions: Steep climb up Parlick; some moor paths obscure; a walk for confident fell walkers, properly shod and equipped.

Lunch: plenty of pubs, cafés in Chipping

Accommodation: Gibbon Bridge Hotel, near Chipping (01995-61456; gibbon-bridge.co.uk) – characterful, enthusiastic, extremely friendly

Forest of Bowland: forestofbowland.com

Clitheroe TIC: 01200-425566; visitengland.com
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 Posted by at 01:05
Sep 152012
 

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
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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.’

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 Posted by at 02:13
May 122012
 

The fly fisherman stood waist deep in Skirden Beck, so intent on his line that he didn’t look up as I went by. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The fields along the river lay half flooded by the morning’s cloudburst over the Forest of Bowland, but if either anglers or walkers cared about getting wet around the knees they’d never go out of doors in this famously moist corner of Lancashire. Bowland is green and lush, its moors wide and wild, its lowlands around Sawley and Bolton-by-Bowland smelling as rich as damp fruit cake after a shower. ‘Right slutchy, the fields,’ remarked a woman I met in the lane near Bolton Mill, and that just summed it all up.

Beyond the grey stone huddle of Bolton I followed the shallow Skirden Beck up its valley – sheep country, with bleak farmhouses of grey-green stone on the ridges and the beck running below a steep cliff it had bitten out of the fields in flood times. The stony farm tracks rose around Hungrill and Lower Laithe, their banks studded with ancient holly trees neatly pollarded by the teeth of countless generations of sheep. Through the hamlet of Holden with its little scatter of houses, and on up across a succession of sheep pastures by stone stiles and tiny wicket gates, with Swaledale ewes flouncing off in a fluster across the wet grass as though I was the first human they had ever clapped eyes on.

The map told me what should have been out there in front, the magnificent prow of Pendle Hill, famous for witches and wandering preachers. But the afternoon sky, while not actually raining, was so thick with moisture that the great hill lay half in sight and half on the edge of fancy, a silky grey whaleback like something in a dream.

On top of the ridge I dropped down into the deep-sunken holloway of Rodhill Lane. It was a stony, narrow stumble down to the old Methodist chapel on the outskirts of Sawley, half-hidden in the lane behind a screen of hollies and hazels. The evening sky stretched in bands of lemon-peel yellow and silver over the Skirden Valley, and Pendle shaped itself out of the gloom in the south like a promise for another day.

Start & finish: Spread Eagle Inn, Sawley, Clitheroe, Lancs BB7 4NH (OS ref SD 777466)
Getting there: Bus (www.traveline.info) Service C2 Clitheroe-Sawley. Road: Sawley is signed from A59 Clitheroe-Gisburn road
Walk (6 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL41):
From Spread Eagle Inn, left along road; cross bridge; right through wicket gate (775466; fingerpost). Follow stiles, yellow arrows/YA, traffic cones (!) through fields. In 5th field cross Holden Beck footbridge (780480) and on (YAs). In ¼ mile, field narrows between 2 woodlands (779486); keep close to right-hand wood. Through kissing gate where paths diverge (781488); ahead across ridge by tree and base of ancient cross, down to sheepfold (782490). Through stile with gate (YA); ahead along drive to cross road near bridge in Bolton-by-Bowland (784493). Over stone stile (fingerpost); continue along left bank of Skirden Beck. Through gate; half right through next gate; follow escarpment edge. Pass house to your left and aim for another ahead. Cross stile in its garden fence (782502); cross lawn; cross stile by gate onto road. Left along grass verge for ¼ mile; right off road past farmhouse (780499; fingerpost); through kissing gate (YA); down field with hedge on right. Cross Bier Beck (778499); aim half right for kissing gate (777500; YA); bear right up track.

Before you reach Hungrill Farm, hairpin back left at nearest corner of walled paddock through first of 2 gateways (777502), ignoring a white arrow pointing on along track towards farm – your southward path is marked by a white arrow on the inner jamb of the gate. Keep on left bank of stream; in 300m, turn right across it at stony crossing (776499). Ahead to cross stile (776497). Follow hedge on left; through gate; on to cross stile and descend steps to road in Holden (775495).

Left round corner; in 100m, right (‘Lane End’). Cross mill stream; left through gate; don’t go through next gate on left with fingerpost, but go up house drive as far as a gate. Right here (774497) up laneway on right of house; through wicket gate (YA); on up fenced path. Over wooden stile; cross grassy lane by stone stiles (772494; YAs). Follow left fence uphill; through gate in hedge (770492; YA); up field, then through wicket gate and over stile (769491). Follow gully uphill; through gate; on over stile to left of Lower Laithe barn (768490). Through next 2 gates (766488 and 766486); diagonally right to cross stile near fence on top of ridge. In 100m cross stile (764482; YA); left along sunken, stony Rodhill Lane. Descend for ½ mile past Rodhill Gate (768477); ahead down drive to cross cattle grid (770476). Farm drive bends left past house, but you keep ahead, passing wooden gate on right (blue arrow). Ahead through field gate; ahead with hedge on left. In 100m, left through gate; right along hedge to cross footbridge over stream (771474). Up steep bank; follow fence to Lawson House farm hedge (772471). Follow footpath signs and arrows right through gate, and on up hedge; then hairpin back left, descending towards barn. Through gate; right past end of barn (arrow); ahead with fence on right. Through gateway (773470) and on. 30m up from far left corner of next field, cross stile (773467); ahead through trees for 20m; left past ‘Rod Hill’ sign. Through gate (YA); descend ramp; forward along lane. Left at bottom to road (774467); right over bridge into Sawley.

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Lunch/Accommodation: Spread Eagle Inn, Sawley (01200-441202; www.spreadeaglesawley.co.uk); Coach & Horses, Bolton-by-Bowland (01200-447202; www.boutiquedininghouse.co.uk)

More info: Clitheroe TIC (01200-425566)
www.visitlancashire.com

Readers’ Walks: Come and enjoy a country walk with our experts! Dates, info etc.: http://www.mytimesplus.co.uk/travel/uk/1867/times-walks.
Next walk: Lindisfarne, Northumberland, 13 May

Breast Cancer Care’s Pink Ribbon Walks:
0870-145-0101; www.pinkribbonwalk.org.uk. Next walks: Scone Palace, Perthshire, 12 May; Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, 19 May
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 Posted by at 02:25
Oct 152011
 

A blowy day on the western shores of Lancashire, with a bruised sky of slate purple and grey over the Irish Sea and the wind driving miniature sandstorms northward up the great 20-mile beach that edges the Sefton Coast.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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I was glad to be walking with the wind and sand at my back, as well as the spatters of rain that chased in from time to time.

Old friends were there to greet me down on Crosby beach – one hundred of them, naked as jaybirds, straight-faced and straight-backed, standing at attention and staring out to sea. Crosby loves its Iron Men – no-one here calls Antony Gormley’s wonderful beach installation by its official name, ‘Another Place’. Rusting and corroding at the whim of salt water and scouring sand, adorned according to locals’ fancy – a painted bikini here, a swimming hat there – each of these identical iron casts of the artist’s body now possesses its own subtly-developing individuality.

The Sefton Coast lies between the estuaries of Mersey and Ribble, a flat shore where the sea can recede a mile or more on a low tide. This enormous beach is separated from the built-up hinterland of footballers’ palaces and golf-course resorts by an unbroken line of sandhills, a fabulous place to walk sandy paths among vividly coloured plants – crinkly yellow evening primrose and yellow-horned poppy, powder-blue sea-holly with prickly leaves, pale blue stars of sea aster, thickets of wild roses and the beautiful pink bonnets of everlasting pea.

It’s a busy seascape off the coast – skeletal sea-marks, whirling wind turbines on Burbo Bank, big container ships and ferries threading Crosby Channel’s sandbanks. Off Formby Point crowds of sanderlings with snowy bellies and long black bills gathered as the sandbanks rose clear of the ebbing sea, and out over the water a swirling cloud of dunlin formed a solid black mass that swerved across the sky.

I threaded the paths of Raven Meols Hills nature reserve, adrift in a green sea of sandhills, and strode north along mile after mile of firm beach sand towards the distant blur of Southport. A last stretch among the brilliant orange berries of sea buckthorn in Ainsdale Dunes, and I made for the train at Ainsdale Station, windblown and tousled, tired and exhilarated by all that space, salt air and solitude.

Start: Waterloo station, Crosby, Lancs, L22 0NA (OS ref. SD 320980)

Finish: Ainsdale station, PR8 3JP

Getting there:
Trains from Liverpool or Southport (www.merseyrail.org)
Road: M6 Jct 26, M58, A565

WALK (14 miles, easy, OS Explorers 285, 275):
From Crosby station, left along South Road. Right beside Marina, through dunes; right (311979) along beach or promenade. In 1¾ miles at coastguard station (299005), ahead along Sefton Coastal Footpath. In 1 mile, at ‘Pebble’ Sculpture (296021) cycle track bends inland, but keep ahead along shore. At Hightown (297039) path veers inland to run beside railway line. In 1 mile path crosses River Alt (294056) and turns left; in 200 m, left at path crossroads (293058, ‘Cabin Hill, Ravenmeols’). At Cabin Hill Nature Reserve sign (287052, yellow arrow) bear right. At path crossing by wind generators, left (284055; white arrow) through dunes to shore; right for 5 miles. At railings with Ainsdale Beach noticeboard, head for yellow marker (‘Dunes Trail’). Follow white-topped posts inland (east) for 500 m; then turn left (north), following posts to Ainsdale Discovery Centre (297126). Ahead along road; right bend; over roundabout (301127); ahead (‘Shore Road’) to station.

NB: Walk can be shortened (Hightown Station 4½ miles, Formby station 8 miles)
Online map, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk.

Lunch: Picnic

Ainsdale Discovery Centre: 01704-570173;
http://www.ribblecoastandwetlands.com/att_ainsdale_discovery_centre

Information:
Southport TIC (01704-533333; www.visitsouthport.com); www.seftoncoast.org.uk
www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com
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 Posted by at 01:14