Well it had been a number of months since last my feet had touched Pendle soil…too many days had gone by since the great world record making Pendle Witch Walk and with my walk in Yorkshire getting alarmingly near it was time to say hello again to dear old Pendle Hill. My original walking forum posting featured the ascent of Stang Top Moor and into Aitken Wood – it’s something of a badly kept secret that I don’t care much for forests and woods – damn you Blair Witch! As it happened my walking companion for the day didn’t seem to have made it to Barley so at 10:15 with the sun appearing overhead I headed off east from Barley visitor centre towards the sleepy little hamlet of White Hough just outside Roughlee.
I had meant to turn off and make my way over to the start of Aitken Wood but my feet just kept on going and before very long I was on the ascent towards the outdoor centre at White Hough and up a somewhat bumpy country lane which had an aroma all of its’s own and evidence that horses had been ridden down here recently. The views soon began to open out and the weather was apparently doing its’ best to put on a good show. I still couldn’t see an entrance into Aitken Wood so continued up through a sheep-filled field with an inkling that around the corner or maybe a couple of corners was the ordnance survey column at Stang Top Moor. After exchanging threatening looks with a sheep whom looked like she was ready to launch an assault I got sight of my newly coveted quarry and the column came into view. This gave me the chance to change the batteries in the camera that I had with me – it was its’ first walk and to be honest was proving to be a chest-bouncing pain in the backside (sic). At the trig point I phoned home (it is impossible to get a mobile phone signal from down in the valley at Barley and I do like to let my fiancé know that I got to my destination safe and sound.
The realisation that for the majority of the next two miles would be downhill ones all the way to the Moss reservoirs put a spring in my step and I made what felt like record progress all the way to the most attractive of the two – Upper Black Moss reservoir. At every turn there seemed to be small groups of people and it has to be said that after my solitary stroll up Stang Top Moor it was good to see other soles around. The next leg of my walk would be be no walk in the park as I walked in-between the Black Moss Reservoirs and headed via the fields – one of which allegedly had a bull in it if the sign at the other side of the field was to be believed!
This was a hard slog, STM was hardly a breeze in itself but this was something else, having only previously walked in the opposite direction and that was downhill the path through to Higher Laithe was tougher than I had expected. Finally near Windy Harbour I had to decide between the constructed driveway to Barley Road or the concessionary path in a 120 degree direction – both would lead me to Barley Road but one was via heavy field and the other…had a sodding big tractor now chugging along it – so the field was now the only direction! As it happens the going via the field was a lot lighter than I had dared to hope and I estimate that I made it through within five or six minutes.
Now came the start of the real deal, the main tough uncompromising section of the walk. I crossed Barley Road and headed to the area known as Pendle Side, I would not be taking on the infamous steps today…thank goodness but to just feel them next to me was like carrying a burden my route would skirt around the lower slopes of the hill and carry me over to Under Pendle and over Ogden Hill…I think, Ogden hill being one of those hills when one doesn’t really know when it has started or finished! The going was very easy if somewhat muddy and progress was only impeded every so often by me taking in the scenery – this was all a very nice reminder of Aug 18th’s Pendle Witch Walk and I was feeling nostalgic. I encountered hardly anybody on this stretch of the route, a cyclist warned me that another cyclist would soon be flying around the corner with a dog but not to worry as the dog would just carry on regardless. I commented that this was lucky as there was not much I could have done about it anyway.
My end to this particular path came almost too soon, the easy part was over and now for the ascent of what one woman to whom I later spoke referred to as “Whimberry Hill”. This is not featured on Bing maps or my ordnance survey map and I shall refer to the route as traversing Deep Clough Spring! After several hundred feet in distance my path merged with the alternate Barley path featured in one of the photographs above then after many stops and a good few conversations with relative strangers – I really had missed the company of others today. This joint path merged with the main one leading up from the southern ascent “Boar Clough”. All around was peat, apart from where the humans where, this was not as busy as last August’s walk but it was certainly as busy as a Halloween Pendle walk. Noticeable was that the weather had taken a turn for the cool – as is the case more often than not on Fat Goat Pendle Walks. I extended and increased my stride to get me to the trig point, my second of the day and because the weather was certainly getting too cool for comfort.
The views from 1,827′ were…pretty rubbish really. The haze was well and truly down, the only summits that I could make out were: Longridge Fell, Parlick and Beacon Fell, I know that out there were Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough, Whernside and Fair Snape Fell…but there was no supporting evidence! After taking a group photo for a pair of couples and causing a falling out between them when I lied about the men having brought then up the hill the hardest way – Barley’s steps (Worston Moor via Burst Clough is officially the hardest route!). The slabs instilled in me a certain de-ja-vous of being on the Pennine Way…the trouble is that I have never been on the Pennine Way (okay I have done the Pen-y-ghent stretch but that’s about it!), whilst it’s true to say that they were very functional – but oh how boring! Even the tiny undulations, the glimpses of what swelled of either side of them (lots and lots of sticky peat and other chemicals which one wouldn’t wish to trod over a carpet!) did not seem to outweigh the fact that this was a very boring path! I had wanted to do this path for a couple of years now…I’m done, I would rather stick to the tourists steps even though they can be absolute killers!
I crossed over Pendle Water at pretty much its’ beginning, the last few steps were taken with extreme care as this was one of the most remote sections of the route. A trip here would lead to a certain disaster…and the same could be said for the next couple of miles as I forded the minor stream and rose up to the shadow of the omni-present Spence Moor and its’ somberness! I thought that I would never hear stillness again; the wind although not tumultuous was just on-going and the path although organic…needs work as in parts it was exceptionally slippery. A number of descents had to be made and invariably this involved a sideways crab-like manner over terrain that was part-peat, part sandstone rock with the odd patch of limestone thrown in for good measure, after a good warm spell this would be a pleasure to walk upon, on my day it certainly got the adrenalin pumping. Ogden Clough was not quite the walkers’ utopia that I had expected. The beauty here was of the kind which lovers of simple moorland views rave about.
After fording the stream another few times I hit the bottom of Boar Clough – and now it will be treated by me with a much more deserved regard – it’s so much nicer than Ogden Clough and I do always feel sorry for the poor isolated lonely Hawthorn (yes I know it is actually a Rowan tree). The path became easier to walk, the descents far less frequent and less challenging and the rain held off for the whole of the walk and after that. I considered my quandary, should I stick to my plan and at the base of the Upper Ogden reservoir head uphill towards Fell Wood and Cockdole? I spied a walker slowly making his way up the very steep slope and this made my mind up for me!
There was nobody around with a gun pointed at my head! No golden ticket was being wafted from the hill to my right, thus with aching feet and legs that seemed to now hate me I took the executive decision to stay on the track that would lead me down back into Barley and save the Cockdole ascension for another day – preferably when I will be in a better shape. Sadly the weather was now getting biting cold so the camera was put back into my backpack for the umpteenth time today and this time I resolved to leave it there until I got home even though this lead to no pictures of the Lower Ogden Reservoir – the most scenic.
Finally I arrived back at Barley Visitor Car Park at 15.25 hours, five hours and ten minutes after I had set off and something like an hour earlier than I had forecasted however, if I had been with someone else then we would have probably spurred each other on into ascending Cockdole and added the other hour back onto the route. There were some utterly fantastic sights to be seen at Pendle today, the views of Pendle Hill itself on the way down from Stang Top Moor (I hope) will stay with me forever. Seeing so many people enjoying the glorious Lancashire landscape was heartwarming beyond my ability to express. My choice of path across the hill itself was a good one that gave me the opportunity to focus on the landscape – as opposed to other routes that grant one the chance to focus on just how hard the route is! I doubt that I will ever encounter Ogden Clough again, even if this is a part of the Nick O’ Pendle route – it’s just so barren and bleak, and bloody slippery. I am more than happy to have done the route today and it has acted as a severe reality check for the up and coming Yorkshire Three Peaks event.