Saturday August the 18th this year marked the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch Trials. To commemorate this dark time in Lancashire’s history there was a world-record-breaking gathering of Witches and two sponsored walks featuring Pendle Hill in aid of Pendle Hospice. I took part – yes you did read that correctly, for a short while the Fat Goat was a witch! with adorned hat, cape and a mighty impressive looking broomstick, if I say so myself. And it goes without saying that I did both the low level and high level walks on the mighty Pendle Hill.
Here is the story of my day:
I left Southport at the ridiculously early time of 05:55 as light was just beginning to break. I had no intention of listening to Tim (of Tom Tom fame) trying to get me to go via Leyland and onto the M65 – quicker the route may be, but at that time of morning I had no head for left turn, right turn, third at the roundabout etc. I was far happier taking the A59 up to just outside Clitheroe then jumping on the A671 then A6068 towards Barrowford then taking the turn off that would bring me over Noggarth Ridge and into Barley at 7:08. By 7:20 I was dressed in traditional walker’s gear (the hat, cape and broomstick being left in the car for later) and en route for what I had planned on being the “easy” walk which was a three mile romp across the lower face of Pendle Hill facing Barley.
It was kind of nice and peaceful to have the streets, paths and even the fields to myself. The description that I had been given of the “easy” route was that it started as a split in the usual path that leads up the side of Pendle (the dreaded steps). In reality (at this time of the day) the path was so vague (and as we all know I have had issues with vague paths) that I had no idea as to where it began – so I did the full steps route up to Big End instead. It was hard going! I had many stops and all the time was aware behind me there were men writing 1612 in truly massive letters on the side of the hill, when I first arrived at Barley the “6” had already been completed. By the time I would reach Barley once more the other three numbers were also in place! After some moments at the summit taking in the lovely morning atmosphere – it’s been three years since I last had Big End to myself I surveyed the land for obvious cairns to follow back to Boar Clough. The last time that I came up here aiming to descend Boar Clough I involuntarily went back down via Deep Clough Spring which was incredibly steep and quite wet. I didn’t want to do that again – even if it did take half a mile off the route. Fortunately I successfully followed cairn after cairn the only real problem being that wet peat is incredibly slippery and it nearly had me over on numerous occasions.
Here are some photos that I took en route:
I arrived back at Barley at 9:55. Having reached Big End in one hour and ten minutes; that meant I had taken considerably longer to get down the hill than I had to get up it! I blamed the slippery path down Boar Clough for this but then congratulated myself anyway for not falling down, not having an heart attack and for finally finding where the flag path begins so that I can ascend – descend via Ogden Clough at some point in the future. Here is the route that I took:
View PWW Route in a larger map
Next thing on my day’s itinerary was the Guinness World Record attempt at the largest number of people dressed as a witch congregated in one enclosed place…or something like that! Ted Robbins was compare and it has to be said he did a fantastic job! I hate queuing, I hate standing around, I hate being in crowds and I had just walked up and down 900 feet over five miles so was really in need of a good “sit down” which was being deprived to me (didn’t want to get the cape all muddy!). Ted kept my spirits up. We managed to amass a total of 482 witches– let’s hope that nobody beats that record for some length of time as it was really frustrating standing around for half an hour having just walked for five miles…or did I mention that already!
After the GWR I treated myself to another excellent cup of Nescafé from The Cabin before setting off for the second leg of my walks in Pendle for the day. It has to be said that I was feeling the mood, so many people aiming to walk up my favourite hill was instilling in me a desire to ascend it again…the queues soon put paid to that notion. After almost an hour we were at Pendle House, if anything was going to convince me not to do Big End again it was the sight of marshals strung out in an highly visible sign right across the base of the hill…the “easy” route was beckoning and I heeded its’ call!
If I thought that Boar Clough was muddy (and it was) this had nothing on the “easy” path! That being said, the views were somehow better than normal as what I could now see to my left I could normally only see by either turning around (never a good move on the Pendle steps) or whilst having my socks blown off (metaphor) atop Big End. It was a relief that the queues had thinned out to nothing, now there were groups of four to six, couples and the odd solo walker (like yours truly), this made for swift progress. Although there was a climb and a very definite one at that it was not too long before hitting the apex of the climb where I shared a word or two with various marshals. The mood of the people was excellent and I rejoiced in my decision not to go up the (bigger) hill again. Perhaps this was a sense of elation owing to having broken away from the masses whom I imagined might not be quite so joyous trapped in a queue of hundreds whilst baking away on one of the steepest slopes in England. Finally after after a few gatepost entrances I began the long and steep drop back down towards Barley via one grass slope and the same long tarmac path which I had traversed some hours earlier…even receiving a free bottle of water which was well received as mine had warmed up a bit by this stage.
Upon arrival at Barley I received my completer medal – and cheekily inquired as to the likelihood of my having two since I had done both walks. I received only smiles for an answer! I did meet with all three of the days organisers, one of whom I had previously informed of my plan to walk to Stang Top Moor, I enlightened him that I would still be doing that…in an hour or so. As one that had completed the course I was entitled to a free beefburger and I consumed this along with another cup of Nescafé and sat down in my car for a few minutes. So far I had covered roughly eight miles. Here is the “easy” route on Google Maps:
View PWW Route 2 in a larger map
After some moments of rest and relaxation and a general drinking in of the atmosphere around me, I headed off once more for my final walk of the day…to find that illusive ordnance survey column on Stang Top. I walked along Barley Road and took the first right hand turn off which would lead me passed both of the Black Moss reservoirs (Upper and Lower) both of which are bigger and more ornate than the Upper Ogden but not as impressive as the Lower Ogden…a very definite favourite has emerged here! The sky was beautifully blue by now and the sun banged down on me and oh how I wished that I had put any kind of sun block on. Fortunately the views across to Pendle and it’s temporary dressing were a joy to observe. I met a family from Colne walking along the path and we shared many a tale of our various walks within this Forest of Pendle (as it is still known on ordnance survey maps). After gaining from them an oversight into a good route back from Stang Top Moor I bid them farewell as the track led onto Black Moss Road. A right hand turn after some distance brought me onto the single track road that is Stang Top Road and from here after getting confirmation from a couple tidying the hedges I would eventually find that pesky trig point, the existence of which I had been aware for over a year but who’s physical form at close quarters had thwarted me on two previous botched attempts.
The wall style for which I had been told to keep an eye alert soon came into view and I had half a mind to use it until I noticed the huge gate akin to the field supported no lock. Given my previous experiences with Pendle styles – I tend to twist ankles upon descent, I opted for the gate – even though it proved to be a pain in the rear to close!
Stang Top Moor is not a pretty place! Think Lake District view then divide by 1,000 and that is its’ wow factor! I had previously read other walkers’ reports condemning the place as a dumping ground – even Pendle advocate Jack Keighley referred to items near to the summit as “Junk”, evidently this has now been cleared up, but the view of Stang Top Moor on its’ own is not worth the effort. The view from its’ summit (actually three metres higher than the trig point) certainly is worth all effort expended in the climb up! My ordnance survey map (OL41) gave me the impression that there was a path which would lead me in the general direction of Barley but a few metres away from the o/s column and indeed there was…which very swiftly became indistinct and then vanished. I had already attempted to simply cross the field and climb over the wall but opted out of this course of action for two reasons:
- I could not say for certain that there was not a bull in the next field
- The farmer had seen fit to string barbed wire over the top of the wall!!!
Thus, as with most of my solo attempts, I had to do a retrace of the steps all the way to the gate and the road beyond. Now came a long, increasingly hotter descent back to Roughlee – although I had never walked Roughlee before the afore mentioned Mr. Keighley has and I could remember gleaning from his works the distance from Roughlee to Barley is negligible at best. When I finally hit the bottom of the hill (thank goodness that I was descending and not ascending in this heat), I was more than a bit relieved to see the sign informing me that there was just one and a half miles to Barley. I did see Alice Nutter – one of the alleged Pendle Witches executed 400 years ago! No, the heat was not having an hallucinogenic effect on me – this is a wonderful commemorative sculpture crafted by David Palmer and brainchild of Pendle councillor James Starkie.
The one and an half miles back to Barley was not the hardest of the day…but it was probably the hottest. I made my wearily way to my car and removed my three seasons coat as quickly as possible.
Here is the route of my final walk of the day courtesy of Google maps:
View Stang Top Trig Point in a larger map
At 16:45 I began my journey home having spent a whopping eight and an half hours here today, I had walked in excess of thirteen and an half miles and ascended roughly eighteen hundred feet…and loved it all!
If you would like to know more about the event and a bit of the history of the place and past events surf on over to:http://www.pendlewitchwalk.co.uk
Here is the Twitter page: https://twitter.com/#!/pendlewitchwalk