Well okay it’s only that perilous if you don’t act sensibly
The Walk of Sunday, 30th October 2011
At the beginning of the year I had an unspoken vow that I would return to my beloved hill of Pendle Hill at least once per month every month. Sadly, after a good start of going twice in a fortnight: the first time at the end of January, the second the beginning of February, the only other time that I have been in the area has been at the end of July when with Southport
Runners Ramblers. They were in surprisingly good form that day and actually managed to make a walk out of a walk – as opposed to the usual fell race! So I wanted to go back at least one more time before the year is out.
As most of my readers (how are you both doing today?) will recall, there’s a certain longing that I have with regards to going for a walk at Pendle Hill or thereabouts on Halloween, with this event falling on a Monday this year I decided to go for the walk on the preceding Sunday. Owing to a current state of general unfitness I have sworn to not go for any big walks which feature hills until at least October so Halloween’s “Pendle Hill ” walk should satisfy my cravings to:1 go for a walk, 2 to walk up an hill and 3 for that hill to be Pendle.
So, here’s where I went:
I crossed over the road from Barley Visitor Centre and onto Cross Lane. This is an extremely steep road and it was with more than a passing relief when I finally descended into Newchurch and eventually took the right hand turn off onto Wellhead Road. 15 minutes of very leisurely walking and much photo-taking saw me reach the tiny, very easy-to-miss gate whereby entry to Saddlers Height is facilitated. It is roughly one year since I first ascended this small but incredibly steep little mound and one year ago I was somewhat shocked to find what appeared to be fresh bones here. I had hoped not to find such a stomach churning spectacle but readily accepted that it takes many years for bones to decompose – they hadn’t! The bones were still present although I hasten to add there didn’t seem to be as many as last year, perhaps a passing dog had treated itself to an alfresco dining experience…in the heart of Lancashire!
My lack of fitness showed badly at this point in the walk as I desperately struggled to ascend this rather boggy field. The going was heavy and it was about to get much worse as I traversed the style in order to descend the path that runs alongside the eastern edge of Fell Wood. Never before had I seen this path in such a mess and it was quite treacherous to walk. It was with relief that I hopped over the style into Fell Wood where it has to be said the underfoot conditions were markedly better. From the northern exit of Fell Wood I walked down the footsteps which lead to a wooden bridge that is used to cross over what is essentially the begiinings of the giant Lower Odgen reservoir.
On reaching the other side of the reservoir I ascended the tarmac and stone chippings path that leads uphill towards the Upper Ogden reservoir and its’ mighty, impressive floodgates. Here I took a much needed five minutes time-out as the walk so far had been quite rough on my feet and back! The next stretch was a sharp but mercifully short grit-stone path at the summit of which lies the turn off path to lead to Spence Moor (as I had unwittingly discovered in January this year). Alternatively the path to my right hand side would lead me alongside the northern edge of the Upper Odgen reservoir and towards the Cloughs- Boar and Ogden.
It has to be said that I had now entered what is and always will be my favourite section of the walk, if not the entire area. There are no “man points” to be gained in ascending Pendle Hill via Boar Clough, such petty self-appointed credits can be earned by doing the ascent up the “Barley Steps” or the nightmare ascent from Merely and Pendleton! What is here is Pendle and Lancashire in exaltation, the shallow valley that is home to the noted “Pendle Water” lies between the cloughs on the one side and the looming lump that is Spence Moor on the other; is a gloriously understated stretch of greenery encased within the confines of two impressive mounds of earth. The famous Pendle Way marker of a witch on a broomstick with a yellow background is replaced here by a more subtle and unaffected “PW” etched upon but an handful of boundary stones – this is not the “Tourist Route” this is the path for the lovers of Pendle! I went through three gates before finally turning right onto the ascent of Boar Clough. The going here was far worse than I had expected. Not wishing to return from my ramble as black as the ace of spades I did at every opportunity avoid as much peat and mud as possible yet still managed to stumble a number of times, on a Summer day this ascension is very easy, in Autumn’s near quagmire the going was taking its’ toll on my physical reserves. At one point the sun was beating down quite mercilessly on my head … in October this bordered on unwelcome seeing as it hadn’t made much of a show during the so-called summer months!
I passed cairn after cairn en route to Big End, I recalled the urban legend that states there are seven cairns from Boar Clough to Big End…and on this day I think it might have been accurate, possibly the odd one or two may have been dismantled, too many cairns can cause confusion – and begin to look a little ridiculous if there are no more than an hundred yards between them! Finally, after something like two and an half hours after setting off from Barley the ordnance survey tig column came into view and my pace accelerated. Literally dozens of fellow walkers adorned the summit – Pendle is traditionally home to a sponsored walk at Halloween each year, with the day falling on a Monday / school day then the event had obviously been moved to Sunday to bring in as many people as possible (I has surmised that this would happen prior to my visit). To be honest after spending such a long time on my own whilst walking through Newchurch, Wellhead Road and Boar Clough, it was nothing short of a relief to be amongst other people!
I shared my lunch of a Tesco Roast Chicken Salad sandwich with a determined greyhound the owners of which had put in a cursory request of “Shep don’t beg” (it’s name may very well might not have been “shep” but for the sake of this post it now is!) and spent a somewhat cold ten minutes admiring the scenery – again not the best views were available today as the sky in all directions could be defined as overcast. It was a great joy to see so many fellow walkers atop Big End and it was even more of a joy to observe that most of them had come up the hill via the dubious stepped path which is immeasurably more arduous than my route – if half the distance! Until January of this year I had longed to descend the Barley steps as opposed to ascending them. Actually it is unquestionably physically easier to descend the steps than to ascend them…mentally however, well for the young of mind no problems are posed but for us more advanced in our years or over cautious in our outlook, the route down the steps is an ankle twisting, treacherous drop into a bruise-inducing nightmare of bumps, bends and oncoming terror! Plus there are other ramblers (and their dogs) heading towards you (it is an unspoken right of walkers that those descending any hill should give way to those ascending) and what a joy it was for me to observe people obviously decades younger and scores of kilograms lighter than me to be demonstrating quite visibly their dismay at the ascent! They were knackered too!
I made it almost to the bottom of the steps without incident, then my mind wandered for but a micro-second and in less than an heartbeat I was flat on my backside with my ribcage being impaled by my own mobile phone as i tripped over items that as of yet remain undefined, I don’t know what got me but the fall hit my ego harder than my body! Fortunately for me as I glanced around the immediate local I could not see anybody pointing and laughing in my general direction (you do get a more succinct breed of walker in this area…or maybe everyone that did see was too knackered to be able to engage in a mighty guffaw!). So it was with a great deal more wariness that I traversed the last mile and an half back to the Cabin at Barley. I saw many people just setting off on their individual and group ascents, I engaged greetings with all whom caught my gaze and thoroughly enjoyed my reduced-speed journey which transformed into a weary throng of travelers. The final stage was incident free – of that I was amazed as the cobbled path just past Ing Ends was covered in wet leaves and at 13:25 I arrived at the little café known as “The Cabin” intent on buying a much needed cup of coffee to drink in the car before leaving for home.
In time I will forget the pain that my feet endured owing to what I believe to be contraction of the boot! I will regale with laughter the fall at Pendle House, I’ll show no malice to hungry greyhounds and I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll do the same thing next year. Why? Because it’s Pendle, it’s Halloween and I’m just about daft enough to love it all.
But if I could just manage to be a couple of stones lighter….
View Pendle Hill Tour on 30th Oct 2011 in a larger map