Slaidburn and the lonely valley

The day after my walk from Staveley to Bowness I was out again. This time I decided to avoid the trains and a long drive on the motorway and headed off to the Forest of Bowland. I travelled via Clitheroe and a fine drive over Waddington Fell on to Slaidburn where I parked up in the car park at the end of the village near the bridge over the Hodder. I’d planned a walk up on to the Salter Road. Also known as the Hornby Road, it’s an ancient route that links the Lune Valley with the old West Riding of Yorkshire, running between Slaidburn and Hornby. It’s an old packhorse trail and about 3 miles of it travel over part of a Roman Road that linked Ribchester and Carlisle. At one time is was probably a busy route but during my walk I didn’t see another walker – although a couple of small groups of motorcyclists riding trail bikes passed me coming from the opposite direction. Alfred Wainwright as one of the finest moorland walks in the country.  I’d love to walk the full route but that would need some organising as it’s too far for a there and back walk. So my walk would be just a taster.

I had an idea on where I’d go but left my options open to see exactly which route I’d follow. It was a fine day, with a stiff breeze and an autumnal nip in the air.

Slaidburn is on the Lancashire Witches Walk and next to the car park is one of the ten tercet waymarkers, this one commemorating Alice Nutter. (A tercet is form of poem comprising a three-line stanza). My plan was to visit another waymarker up on the moors.

At daylight’s gate, the things we fear
darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.

The Daylight Gate is the title of a novel by Jeanette Winterson published during the 300 anniversary year of the Pendle Witches trial. It’s very characteristic of Winterson’s “Magic Realism” style centering on “Alice Nutter”, although she’s not much like the real historical character.

I set off through the village

passing the war memorial

and then turning down the road by the village shop

As well as the humbler former workers’ cottages, there’s a number of larger houses in the village.

A short distance along the road I turned off onto a path along the river, initially through woodland.

I was following the route of the Lancashire Witches Walk.

I was soon out of the woods and walking through fields, the grass wet with dew, with a view of the fells ahead.

After crossing fields I joined the Salter road eventually reaching the gate beyond which the route isn’t passable by motorised vehicles (although, no doubt, you’ll get off roaders driving over here and disturbing the peace and quiet)

But there was nothing to stop a walker carrying on.

A short distance along from the gate I came to “intersection” where the path to Dunsop head leaves the Salter road. The memorial stone commemorates the crew of four aircraft who were killed when their planes crashed on the nearby moors during WWII

A close up of the memorial

I carried on along the road that started to snake across the quiet moor land

I spotted a shepherds hut and sheepfold down in the bottom of the valley

I eventually reached the second Lancashire Witches waymarker of the day, by the side of the road near to Croasdale quarry

This one commemorated Elizabeth Device, who was, apparently, known locally as Squinting Lizzie due to a facial deformity. She was the daughter of Old Demdike, the 80 odd year old matriarch of one of the two “clans” that formed the core of the women who were executed. Her Nine-year-old Jennet Device was one of the main witnesses for the prosecution in the trial at Lancaster. (Ironically, twenty years after the trial Jennet was accused of witchcraft herself. However, she escaped the fate of her mother, brother James and sister Alison)

Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon

Having reached the waymarker I now had to decide how to proceed. I could see in the distance a building just off the road which raised my curiosity. I was tempted to head up White Hill, the second highest point in Bowland, over to the east, but decided against the climb up over a pathless moor. There was a shooter’s track heading up teh fell to the west and I wondered whether I might find a way over the moor to Dunsop Head.

I decided to take this track. At first the going was good but as I climber higher up the moor it deteriorated and by the time I reached the shooting butts I was starting to wade through the wet peat. It was clear that a walk across the moor to Dunsop head would be a pathless rough traverse over the grass and heather and peat bogs. An option for a dry spell in the summer, but not one to savour that day.

So I retraced my steps back down towards the road, initially losing the path having to make my way through the grass and heather before regaining the track confirmed that I was wise not to try and tackle the long bog trot over to Dunsop Head. On the way down I spotted Pen-y-ghent peeking over the top of the hill to the east.

And this was the view south / south-east with Pendle Hill clearly visible.

Reaching the road I decided to carry on to take a look at the building I could see. It was a shooter’s hut. It was locked and boarded up to keep out riff raff like me, but I stopped for a while for a hot coffee and a bite to eat.

I then retraced my steps along the road – this section being part of the former Roman road.

I passed the waymarker again.

Carrying on heading south

Reaching an intersection I decided to take the path down Croasdale. and then head back across the fields to Slaidburn.

Looking back over the lonely moors after I’d passed through a gate

The going was good at first. I was on a track that leading to the ruin of the House of Croasdale, probably a former shepherd’s hut or shieling rather than a farm house.

The path then veered of f through long grass with stretches of bog down the side of the valley towards the river, yellow topped wooden posts showing the way – just!

It wasn’t easy going but I managed to keep my feet out of the worst of the gluey wet peat – there were wooden walkways laid over the worst of the bog.

I had to cross over the river, just about keeping my feet dry by balancing precariously on rocks in the rushing water. The path was difficult to follow in a few places but I eventally found the track that took me down towards Croasdale House

Looking back to the farm house after I’d passed by .

I carried on down the concrete track. I missed the turnoff onto a path across the field hat would have been a short cut and easier underfoot.

At he end of the track I turned right towards Shay House (another farm) and bjust before the farmhouse climber over a stile and began a walk over a series of fields that took me back towards Slaidburn.

From the lower lying land there were good views over to the high fells.

Reaching Slaidburn I called into the Bowland Chocolate Company shop and made a few purchases to earn a few brownie points when I got back home,

and then stopped at the cafe next to the car park where I stopped for a while to enjoy a brew and a slice of blueberry cake (needed to boost my blood sugar!).

The cafe is a favourite of motorcyclists and there were a few groups on nearby tables. Earwigging I could overhear anecdotes being swapped by a group of older “bikers” on the next table. One was relating a story of a friend who when stopped by a police officer was asked why he was riding at 92 mph – his answer, apparently was “because the bike won’t do 100 mph”.

Sitting outside the cafe I’d noticed a number of Morgan’s driving past – there must have been a rally on and they were taking a scenic drive through Bowland. Two cars had pulled into the car park so their occupants could refresh themselves in the cafe. I snapped them as they were driving out of the car park.

Due to difficulties generating the full route using the OS maps app I had to do it in two parts – out and back again (the app doesn’t like it if you retrace your steps). So, this is my outward route

and this is the route back

Brennand and Whitendale

Trying to make the best of a spell of good weather before another heat wave arrived, I had a couple of days out at the beginning of the week. On Monday I drove back over to the Forest of Bowland as I’d enjoyed my walk there a few days before. It’s a wild, remote area and this, combined with the lack of access to large areas of shooting estates until relatively recently, means that there aren’t a great deal of “ready made routes”. There are now large areas of Access Land that were forbidden territory in the past, which means that it’s possible to strike out on your own way, but in Bowland that would almost inevitably mean traversing over large stretches of soggy peat bog. But I remembered a blog post by Michael of the Rivendale Review just a week ago describing his walk over to the Brennand Valley and that sounded like exactly the sort of walk I fancied. I did extend it a little, though, circumnavigating the Middle Knoll to Whitendale.

I drove along the narrow, twisting roads to Dunsop Bridge and then along the Trough of Bowland as far as the car park on the side of the road by Langdon Brook at the point where it emerges from the fells before running alongside the Trough road. I expect it gets busy on a sunny weekend but there was plenty of room when I arrived. I’m avoiding going out at weekends during the summer, taking advantage of my increased leisure time and reasonably flexible working arrangements to get out and about when there’s a good chance of avoiding the crowds. It worked that day!

The start of the walk required walking along the Trough road for a kilometre or so, but traffic was light. I passed a farm

Sykes farm on the Trough of Bowland Road

and then an old lime kiln

before reaching an old barn where I turned off the road onto a track that would take me up on to the fells.

As I climbed I looked back to the Trough road

I carried on climbing steadily, making gradual progress. The path wasn’t too steep for most of the way and with the recent lack of rainfall the ground was mainly dry underfoot.

There was a final short, steep pull and then I’d reached the top of the fell. Now the peat was much wetter, but nothing too bad!

Large areas of the fell were covered in purple heather

I could have decided to head over to the summit of Whin fell but that would have required some bog hopping over the moor. However, a good walk doesn’t have to involve summit bagging. I was enjoying the solitude and the wild, scenery, which was dramatic enough.

While writing this post a comment popped up Michael of the Rivendale Review mentioning an incident back in 2011 where a well known fell runner was found dead in the peat on Saddle Fell, not far from where I’d been walking on Friday. He’d been up there for about 3 week before he was found. It is so quiet up there. Other than the cyclists, I only saw one other person when I was going across the bogs. And even if a few other people did pass by him he could have been hidden amongst all the peat hags. A real illustration why it’s important to take care up on these lonely fells and make sure someone knows you’re up there. The difficulty is that I often decide my route “on the hoof”, changing my plans as I walk and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

On a brighter note, from the top of the fell I could see right down into the lonely Brennand Valley. It was a breathtakingly beautiful view – if you like wild and lonely moorland scenery, and I certainly do!

I was on the edge of a large stretch of wild moorland where there are very few signs of human habituation other than scattered farms, like the one in the middle of the above picture. Brennand farm is at the end of a road a couple of miles out of Dunsop Bridge. There’s another farm, Lower Brennand, a short distance away but there’s no other houses until you approach the village.

As I looked down into the valley contemplating this, I was reminded of a novel I’d read by Andrew Michael Hurley. Devil’s Day is a modern “Gothic” novel set on a remote farm up in Bowland. The atmosphere of the book is bleak and claustrophobic, and I can imagine how it would feel living up here on a farm in the winter when it’s pouring down with rain, with a gale blowing, when the days are short and there are sheep to rescue from the fell. But on a sunny day, with enough cloud to provide some shade, it was a pretty glorious place to be.

I started to descend the narrow path of Ouster Rake down into the valley.

Looking back up Ouster Rake

Reaching the farm, I had options. I could head straight down to Dunsop Bridge, a couple of miles away, but it was too good a day to cut short the walk so soon. I could have followed the Shooter’s track along the valley and up the fell, getting right into the deep moor. I was tempted but decided to save that for another day. Instead I stuck to my original plan for the day which was to carry on round the Middle Knoll over to Whitendale, another lonely valley with a farm.

Looking up to the head of the valley – I decided to leave that until another day.
The path I took which skirts the lower slopes of Middle Knoll

Starting to stride along my chosen route I saw a couple on bikes descending from the higher level track coming from the bottom of the valley. We stopped to chat. I could see that they were riding e-bikes so I asked what they thought of them 9I’m still pondering whether to buy one!). They told me that they’d hired them from a shop in Dunsop Bridge (when I checked my emails later in the day I’d received one from another “bloggy friend”, Bowland Climber, who had mentioned this in a comment, posting around the time I was having this chat!) I decided I’d hire one to try in the near future.

I carried on along the track which eventually changed to a fairly indistinct path back in the bogs.

Passing a small tarn

After a while the valley of Whitendale came into view.

These are really the lonely moors of Bowland, miles from “civilisation” and difficult to access. There are few paths to follow. I have some ideas for routes – but It would be a long day walking up there. But that wasn’t where I was going that day. Instead I carried on the path round Middle Knoll and then made my way down into Whitendale and another isolated farm. It was a steep descent, the toughest part of that day’s walk, but nothing too difficult even though my blood sugar had dropped.

I’d been past this farm before – quite a few years ago – when I’d been over Dunsop Fell – another good walk I’ll have to repeat soon.

Passing the farm

From then on I was on tarmac on the road down the valley to Dunsop Bridge.

Looking back to Whitendale farm

and the road ahead

I stopped for a short while at the junction with the road coming in from Brennand – there was a handy memorial bench there.

Looking down the Brennand Valley

I carried on down the road towards Dunsop Bridge, looking back from time to time

Looking back to Middle Knoll

I’d walked up and down this valley several times in the past and my recollection was that I wasn’t so fond of it. I remember the hills were covered in dense pine forest and the valley had something of an industrial feel due to the forestry and structures associated with United Utilities who extract water from the river. However, this time I didn’t feel that way. There had been some clearance of the pines, but perhaps it was the blue skies that were putting me in a mood more receptive to the delights of the fells on either side of the river.

Towards the end of the valley I passed a row of houses

and then it didn’t take long to reach the small village of Dunsop Bridge and, most importantly, Puddleducks Tearooms!

Time for an obligatory brew and cake!

Refreshed it was time to walk the final leg of my journey, along the Trough back to the car.

Dunsop Bridge bridge!
The Working Men’s Institute
The war memorial
An old road sign
and a newer one!
looking over to Mellor Knoll
the village church

The first half of this final leg of my walk was on the tarmac of the Trough of Bowland road, which is hard going after a fairly long walk

but the views were pretty good!

Looking back over the river to Mellor Knoll

At the junction with the road up to Harenden, I was able to leave the road and take a path along the south of the river which led back to Langden brook and the car park

The Bowland Mountain Rescue HQ up of the hillside
Arriving at Langden Brook

Well, that was another cracking walk up in Bowland, and I’d managed to survive the bogs. I’ll be back up this way soon!

Clougha Pike

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Last Sunday promised to be a fine day so we decided to get outdoors. We decided against heading up to the Lakes and, instead, tackle Clougha Pike which is a hill on the edge of the Forest of Bowland Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty which overlooks Lancaster. Having climbed it’s neighbour, Ward Stone, in the past, I knew that we were likely to have some good views on a fine day and I’d recently discovered that there was a sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy up on the moor, having read about in a post on Beating the Bounds. All in all it seemed a good bet for combining a walk with some art and less than an hour’s drive up the M6.

We parked up in the car park on Rigg Lane near Quernmore and set off on a route that would take round the back of Clougha Pike and past the Goldsworthy sculpture, then over Grit Fell across to the summit of our main objective. The hill and surrounding moors are part of the Abbeystead Estate owned by the Duke of Westminster and it’s been “cultivated” for grouse shooting. Access to the heather clad moorland was jealously guarded until the recent past, but with changes in legislation it’s open access land outside of the shooting season.

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There is plenty of evidence of the grouse shooting with grouse butts and parking spaces dotted across the moors and there are bulldozed tracks to allow the shooters easy access. Our route followed one of these roads (only suitable for 4 x 4 s) for almost half the distance, and although they could be considered to spoil the look of the moor to some extent, they do make for easy walking over what would otherwise be very wet and boggy peat, and we had to endure that for much of the second half of the walk.

We set off and followed the track along to the quarry near to Cragg Wood.

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It wasn’t long before we encountered the first grouse of the day!

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The Red Grouse is only found in the British Isles, and, in England, mainly in the North West.

A flock of sheep were keeping an eye on us.

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Reaching the quarry we joined one of the shooters’ tracks and started the climb up the moor.

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Visibility was good and great views over to the Lake District mountains and the Yorkshire Dales soon opened up.

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I shot panoramas of the Lakeland Fells

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and the Three Peaks (Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent)

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Looking to the west over Lancaster and Morecambe Bay to the Furness peninsula

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We passed weathered formations of Millstone Grit

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Eventually we arrived at the former quarry where Andy Goldsworthy had constructed three structures where we stopped to take a look and to have our dinner.

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A local resident was keeping an eye on us!

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Carrying on along the track we passed Ward’s Stone, the highest hill in Lancashire (since the boundary changes of 1974 robbed us of Coniston Old Man!) on our left

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before turning off the track on to a path crossing the moorland towards Grit Fell

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It was wet and muddy and swampy (so no chance of keeping our boots clean)  and hard going in places.

Eventually the summit of Clougha Pike beckoned

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We stopped for a while for a bite to eat and to take in the views. Then we set back down following the path along Clougha Scar

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We missed the path which cuts back to the Rigg Lane car park and ended up part way up the shooters’ track we’d come up on.

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We retraced our route back to the car park. The diversion resulting in a slightly longer walk than planned. A good day, nevertheless.